Up to $100m to be invested to upgrade Singapore's broadband network to 10Gbps

Up to $100m to be invested to upgrade Singapore's broadband network to 10Gbps
Minister for Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo said the upgrade is in anticipation of data-intensive tools such as AI and virtual reality.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE —?The promise of household Internet speeds 10 times faster than current ones is moving closer to becoming a reality, with up to $100 million being earmarked for a national network upgrade.

The upgrade is in anticipation of data-intensive tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and smart-home applications, which will require greater speeds to support, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Feb 21.

The $100 million investment by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will be channelled to upgrade the back-end network and user equipment up till 2026 to allow residential broadband services to deliver connection speeds of up to 10Gbps.

The upgrading marks a next step in Singapore's Nationwide Broadband Network, commercially launched in 2010 with a $1 billion investment from the Singapore Government. The network, which is already capable of supporting speeds of 10Gbps, reached more than 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Singapore in 2013 —?a first in the world.

It is not known what the exact use cases are for connectivity speeds of up to 10Gbps, but it is necessary to ensure Singapore is equipped when the technology arrives, said?Teo.

"Digital infrastructure takes time to build up and doesn't happen overnight. Many of the ways digital developments will change the way we work and live are not entirely known in advance," she said.

"Even if we do not know the specific use cases that you and I will be interested to take up, it is quite clear that the future will involve more immersive digital experiences, it will involve additional smart devices, autonomous devices (and) AI... We have to try and make a best effort to understand what the trends are going to be and make sure our infrastructure is future-proof."

The announcement to invest $100 million comes after Deputy Prime Minster Lawrence Wong announced plans to upgrade the Nationwide Broadband Network when he delivered Singapore's 2024 Budget statement on Feb 16.

The faster speeds are projected to arrive at more than half a million households here, which are expected to sign up through telcos to receive these higher-speed services by 2028.

Broadband plans with surfing speeds of at least 1Gbps are the current standard for around 85 per cent of households here. Actual speeds for each home may vary depending on the number of users in an area, and other factors such as throttling by Internet service providers to prevent network hogging by a small number of users.

Internet metrics company Ookla reported that the average download and upload speed in Singapore is close to 300Mbps.

Plans for a 10Gbps home broadband network were first outlined in the Digital Connectivity Blueprint in 2022, which laid out plans to bolster Singapore's digital capacity in the coming years so that it remains competitive.

It includes doubling subsea cable landings in Singapore over the next decade in a bid to increase digital trade here.

The decision to upgrade echoes back to Singapore's call to develop the Nationwide Broadband Network —?first announced in 2008 —?when there was feedback that people did not need 1Gbps speeds and were content with 30Mbps, said Mrs Teo.

A spokeswoman for IMDA said on Feb 21 that the pricing model and tiering of speeds will be left to the market, adding that such changes are not likely to happen abruptly.

She said: "They have to be transparent in the way they offer services. Not only do (telcos) need to market the theoretical speed, they have to (indicate) the typical speeds that the user will experience."

The spokeswoman added: "We will do our checks to make sure that (telcos) do deliver what the typical user (can expect) but we will not mandate it as a regulation."

ALSO READ:?Budget 2024: Indranee explains why new SkillsFuture programme focuses on diplomas, not degrees

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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