Singapore’s telecoms watchdog the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), says the country’s communications sector grew by a record 20% in 2006 to SGD45.4 billion (USD29.5 billion). Growth was driven in part by increased mobile saturation: the cellular penetration rate stood at over 108% by the year-end, largely the result of people owning sometimes as many as three phones, each designed to suit an individual’s particular requirements for a given situation – internet browsing, business or personal use for example. The IDA also reported a strong rise in broadband adoption which reached 68% by 31 December 2006, up from 64% a year earlier. The island state is in the process of planning the deployment of its next generation network (NGN) and says it has pre-qualified a dozen companies and consortia to build it. ‘When it is ready in 2012, this network will be capable of speeds of at least 1 Gigabits per second and of supporting bandwidth-intensive applications that are decades into the future,’ said Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.
The Minister went on to say that the country’s ten-year ICT master plan (iN2015) was on track and announced new initiatives targeting tourism and small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). To date, Singapore’s Wireless@SG initiative has over 3,400 public hotspots islandwide, with another 1,600 wireless hotspots expected by September this year. In addition, around 430,000 people have subscribed to the free unlimited Wi-Fi service. The government now plans to target SMEs by giving them access to a range of resources including the SME Infocomm Resource Center located at Singapore Polytechnic, where they can get advice on commonly used applications such as e-mail, IP telephony, antispyware and antivirus. The regulator, along with a government body called Spring Singapore, whichwas set up to establish industry standards, will fund up to SGD5 million from the Technology Innovation Programme (TIP) to help SMEs grow. The state envisages around 80% of SMEs will be using broadband by 2010 and have a web presence.