StarHub CEO Not Sure Singaporeans Need Fiber to the Home

Singapore is in the early stages of building a high-speed broadband network with fiber optic connections to every home and building, but it's not yet clear what Singaporean users will do with all of the extra bandwidth they will soon have, according to the chief executive at one of the country's operators.

"Nobody's sure what's going to happen," said Neil Montefiore, CEO of StarHub, which offers mobile, Internet and cable television services, speaking to attendees on the opening day of Singapore's CommunicAsia telecommunications exhibition.

Singapore will likely be the first country to have every home connected to a high-speed fiber optic network -- a feat made possible by the country's tiny size and high population density. The Southeast Asian city-state has a population of 4.8 million living in an area just 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.

Under Singapore's Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network plan, 60 percent of all buildings in Singapore -- including homes, schools, businesses and hospitals -- will have access to a 1Gbps (bits per second) Internet connection by the end of this year. By 2012, 95 percent of buildings will have access to a 1Gbps connection.

It's not yet certain that Singaporean users currently need, or even want, Internet connections that fast, Montefiore said, noting that 5 percent of StarHub's 408,000 Internet subscribers signed up for its 100Mbps Internet service, the fastest that it offers. "We'll see what happens," he said.

Of course, speed isn't the only factor users weigh when they choose an Internet plan. Price also matters, suggesting many consumers may not see enough benefit from having a higher connection speed to justify the added cost. StarHub's 100Mbps service costs S$124 (US$89) per month, while a 6Mbps connection is priced at S$46.

From StarHub's perspective, the biggest change from the new fiber optic network will the ability to extend its services to 24,000 commercial buildings that its existing network doesn't reach, Montefiore said.

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