Singapore pursues fiber-rich technologies to spin global web

Apr 1st, 1995

Singapore pursues fiber-rich technologies to spin global web

Gene Mesher

Fiber-optic technology is slated to play a critical role in the island country of Singapore to establish a global information hub by early in the next century. Singapore Telecom, the country`s recently privatized international communications giant with revenues of more than $2 billion, will provide and operate the fiber-optic infrastructure.

Fiber-optic and related optical technologies are already extensive, including a local fiber network with intelligent services, participation in several undersea cable projects, asynchronous transfer mode-based broadband trials and plans to open a business park where advanced telecommunications facilities will be available to tenants within two years. If all activities proceed as planned, the infrastructure goals will be achieved by the year 2005.

As of November 1994, more than 140,000 kilometers of optical fiber had been laid in Singapore. In addition, the island`s 28 telephone exchanges had furnished 71% of their main distribution frame rooms with fiber trunks. By late 1997, the rooms will be 100% functional with fiber. By the end of 1994, fiber links were completed with many hotels and commercial buildings.

Undersea fiber cable systems connect the island to countries in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, North America, the Middle East and Europe. Other submarine systems are linked to the Asia Pacific Cable, the Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 2 Cable, as well as regional connections to Malaysia and Brunei.

Singapore Telecom largest shares

The year-old Asia Pacific Cable cost $370 million and has a capacity of 560 megabits per second. At 18%, Singapore Telecom holds the largest share of the 43 cable participants. Like the Brunei cable, the APC cable uses singlemode regenerative repeaters at 1550 nanometers.

Completed last year, the first undersea optical fiber cable connecting Southeast Asia to Europe--the SEA-ME-WE 2--has a length of more than 18,000 kilometers. Another link that connects Singapore and Jakarta has a capacity of 15,360 64-kilobit-per-second circuits.

Plans are underway to deploy undersea optical fiber cables that will use synchronous digital hierarchy technology. The first installation will be the Asia Pacific Cable Network, which will connect Singapore with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Scheduled for completion in late 1996, the cable will run at 5 gigabits per second per fiber pair. Out of the participants in the project, Singapore Telecom, with an 8% share, ranks third behind Kokusai Denshin Denwa of Japan and Hong Kong Telecom International.

In another undersea cable project--the SEA-ME-WE 3--Singapore Telecom will be one of 16 participants. The cable`s fiber pairs will have a capacity to 10 Gbits/sec. Just as the Asia Pacific Cable Network, the SEA-ME-WE 3 will employ optical amplifier technology to eliminate optical to electrical conversion.

In broadband networking, Singapore has entered the second phase of its ATM program. The first or trial phase began in 1992; research groups at the Institute for Systems Science were linked to Singapore Telecom`s Comcentre and the Singapore World Trade Centre.

In the second phase, switched ATM-based services are under investigation. The trial seeks to test the interconnection of local area networks with point-to-point links to demonstrate such broadband services as video telephony, videoconferencing, remote educational and medical information access and distributed video retrieval.

Last November, construction began for Teletech Park in the Singapore Science Park. Teletech Park is being built by a consortium of Singapore organizations headed by the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore, the local telecommunications regulatory body. The park`s goal is to demonstrate how advanced telecommunications services can be incorporated into the business and manufacturing sectors in Singapore. To do this, Teletech Park will install extensive fiber-optics equipment for videoconferencing rooms, intelligent buildings and in-house broadband network connectivity.

The 24,000-square-meter Teletech Park is scheduled to open in 1996. If successful, the $55 million Teletech Park will serve as a prototype for future building construction and communications.

A video-on-demand trial is scheduled to begin during the third quarter of 1995. The $9 million contract was awarded to a consortium of Mitsui, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Philips Broadband Networks Inc. The 18-month three-phase trial will start with 20 participants and grow to 300.

Participants will select movies; news, educational and documentary programs; home shopping; ticket booking and other transactional services.

Programming will be delivered to trial participant`s homes from ATM servers using the motion picture experts group-1 digital encoding protocol. During the initial phase, which is scheduled to begin during the third quarter of 1995, 20 households will be connected via telephone lines using asymmetric digital subscriber line technology and copper wires. In the second phase, beginning in the fourth quarter of 1995, 280 more households will be added using a hybrid fiber/coaxial-cable network. q

Gene Mesher is a freelance writer based in Tucson, AZ.

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