Netlink Trust offers $20 cash to fibre broadband customers facing delays of up to two months

Netlink Trust is the sole network builder here and runs the government-backed ultra-high speed Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network.
Netlink Trust is the sole network builder here and runs the government-backed ultra-high speed Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network. PHOTO: NETLINK TRUST

SINGAPORE - Some customers facing delays getting their fibre broadband connected have received a surprise $20 gift from network builder Netlink Trust (NLT).

The Straits Times understands that many of the affected customers are StarHub users who had placed their fibre broadband orders with the telco over the past three months. They were rushing to switch over from StarHub's ageing cable network before it ceased to operate from June 30.

The deadline to sign up has since been moved to Aug 31, with cable services to cease on Sept 30.

In a letter to affected StarHub customers seen by The Straits Times, NLT said: "Despite our best efforts, the fibre broadband service activation may have taken longer than expected. As a token of appreciation for your patience, we would like to offer you a cash rebate of S$20."

NLT is the sole network builder here and runs the government-backed ultra-high speed Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN).

Customers typically wait two weeks for NLT contractors to turn up to install fibre points or activate fibre links to replace the soon-to-be defunct cable network and supply high-speed broadband access, after placing an order with Internet service providers like Singtel, StarHub or M1.

But this was not the case for StarHub cable TV customer Kwek Siew Hong, 68, who continues to wait, about two months after opting to turn on the fibre links in her home.

 
 

After signing up for the migration in early May, she was told initially that an NLT contractor would go to her home to activate the fibre links in the middle of that month, with a second appointment with StarHub technicians to follow.

But the telco later called to inform her that the appointment would be postponed owing to a problem with the NLT contractor, with no fixed follow-up date given.

The housewife received NLT's letter offering the cash gift on June 21 but still does not have an appointment as of Friday (July 5).

"I don't want the $20, I just want my fibre broadband to watch pay TV. The least they can do is tell me the expected appointment date," said Madam Kwek.

Figures on the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) website show that there were 89,600 cable modem subscriptions as at March this year. StarHub is the sole cable TV operator here.

When contacted, an NLT spokesman said: "On average, customers that have received our cash rebates each month make up less than 1 per cent of connection requests that we handle every month."

Those eligible for the cash had experienced "longer-than-expected service delay in activating his/her fibre Internet service, which in some instances are beyond NetLink's control", said the spokesman.

NLT would not say how many people were affected, but according to IMDA's website, about 10,000 new fibre broadband subscriptions were added every month from January to March this year.

Asked why delays had happened, NLT said the time it takes to provide a fibre connection to homes varies from case to case. Those which require a new fibre cable installation - either because no fibre termination point is present or the point is in use - can take up to eight weeks.

The point will be in use if, for example, a StarHub cable TV customer is subscribing to another service provider for his or her fibre broadband.

ST understands that appointments with NLT are limited to weekdays during office hours - which has put significant constraints on users who need to work.

This arrangement could have come under some strain in managing the hundreds of thousands of StarHub cable TV customers who have signed up for the migration.

When asked why the deadline for fibre migration was extended, StarHub acknowledged fibre installation delays that were due to  customers' "more complex requirements for infrastructure" that it was working with NLT to resolve.

It also cited a backlog caused by a surge in migration applications from customers in the days before June 30. But the telco declined to reveal the number of users who either experienced delays or sent in last-minute applications.