Next Gen broadband system may not be for next generation S’poreans

Henry Cheong / Leong Sze Hian

We refer to Thomas Lee’s letter:World Cup rights: Problem lies with MDA, not the telcos”. (ST, Jul 24).

It states that: “The MDA erred in not foreseeing the problem that would arise from the two telcos using pay-TV systems that are not compatible with each other”.

Over the past weeks there has been a numbers of letters written to the Straits Times forum to complain about SingTel’s Mio system; as well as criticism of the multitude of cables coming into the house; and all for the sake of cable TV and internet, presently provided by StarHub, SingTel and M1.

I have a suggestion – all cable and broadband delivery to homes should be sent through the coming Next Gen Broadband network which is presently being implemented in various parts of Singapore. However, this is easier said than done as even if all homes are wired up to the new broadband cable system, both SingTel and StarHub can, if they wish, still maintain their present antiquated systems to deliver TV and broadband connection to  homes.

If this is the case, I find this most astonishing as this goes against the way things are usually done in Singapore – that of being efficient and practical for the sake of the common good.

What is the purpose of continuing with the two  older separate networks when in the near future there will be this new single state-of-the-art broadband system in place that is initiated by the Government, through the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA)? The new system will enable a single cable to  homes to be connected to a single set top box, whether the content is sourced via  StarHub or SingTel, or any other content provider that provides such service.

Having all service operators utilizing this network will satisfy the IDA (and to a lesser extent the MDA), in having the latest generation broadband system in place that is utilized by the service providers to streamline their deliveries to homes. Most importantly, it will also satisfy  consumers in having a single cable into the home with one common set top box. The only groups which may not be happy are the service providers, as they will have to write-off their old systems and equipment used to deliver their content to  homes now. However, I believe that for the good of Singapore, the major shareholders of these companies would accede to a one time write-off of the said equipment.

We would like to ask the following questions:-

Why is the IDA spending so much money to wire all homes under the Next Gen broadband, if Singtel and Starhub may not  decide to use it to deliver broadband and TV to homes?

Why is the IDA, Singtel and Starhub silent on whether all broadband operators will use the new network in the future?

Why are both broadband operators continuing to build and expand their separate infrastructures?

At the end of he day, wouldn’t both operators pass on the costs to consumers?

Is it not a waste of resources for Singapore as a whole?

Is it because both telcos will still continue to use their own network to homes as they want households to subscribe to their own network, and not the Next Gen
common network?  This may mean that there will still be multiple set top boxes in homes instead of a single set top box.

As I understand that experts in the sector had suggested that a national network be built a long time ago, why did we end up with two separate infrastructures and now a third national network?

Would it not have been better if we had decided to go with a national network in the first place?

Why is it that no MPs have raised this issue in Parliament?

Why is it that no media in Singapore has reported or discussed this issue?

Why is IDA silent on these issues?

Perhaps the IDA should heed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister-in-Charge of the Civil Service, Teo Chee Hean’s call for public officers to anticipate the future and to be prepared for surprises (“Public officers urged to anticipate the future and to be prepared for surprises”, Channel News Asia, Jul 24).