Networking

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Singapore's fibre paradox

Unlike in the UK, the Singaporean government understands broadband but users don't

Compiled at my Singapore hotel upon arrival and despatched to silicon.com on the day of my departure from Changi Airport via a free wi-fi service

Having arrived in Singapore during the late afternoon, I went for a walk to help my body normalise after the flight.

Within the first 50 metres I came across a crew sitting under huge umbrellas, splicing optical fibres at the side of the road.

I stood and watched for a while and recognised the tools, equipment and techniques which were all developed some 20 years ago and now are mostly automated and precisely controlled.

Here are some photos of what I saw:

Telecoms engineers on a Singapore street

Telecoms enginrers on a Singapore street

I later found that the Singapore government has a policy and a plan. They are rolling out fibre everywhere and the target is 1Gbps to every home and office over the next few years.

So it will happen - when the Singaporeans formulate a plan, they stick to it and the job gets done.

After my walk I decided to log-on and catch up on my email but everything seemed very slow. I did a speed check and I was getting close to 1Mbps on both uploads and downloads on my hotel LAN. Huh. This didn't stack up - optical fibre to the hotel but only 1Mbps to my room?

Was there something wrong? I checked with the manager and he assured me that 1Mbps was the norm and this was considered to be broadband. I decided to just look surprised and be magnanimous. When you are a guest in a country, it is always best to be polite!

I made enquires and did a few tests on public sites, and it seems 1Mbps is a widespread norm for Singapore. I also tried my 3G dongle but could never get more than about 0.9Mbps. Strangely, a lot of my contacts seemed to accept that this rate is sufficient.

There seemed to be a paradox here. The Singapore government clearly gets it but it might be that some of the public don't - certainly my hotel manager didn't. Contrast this to the UK where the public gets it but the government doesn't.

You can watch a video I shot while in Thailand, about their broadband here.

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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