SingTel Exchange Fire: Random Thoughts

Date:  Oct 12, 2013

[Disclaimer:  This is purely my personal views.  It has nothing to do with any of the company I am working with.  This is just some of the random thoughts and express my views on the whole matter.  This country has free speech, right?]

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[The Story]

Some fire broke out in one of SingTel Exchange, burn away a lot of finer optics.  And affected service delivery from SingTel, Starhub, M1, Opennet, DBS, Singapore Pool to consumers.

– Is just a small fire I think.  Because such an important data centre or exchange must have super solid fire protection systems.  I remember, when we design the data centre 10 over years ago, we put in all these dry sprinkle, wet sprinkle, FM200, etc etc.  So, something fire broke out, human beings must be the first one to go, because when these fire protection gas is released, human being cannot survive in there.  

– But judging from the photo posted on the news paper… hmm… it is possible the fire break out from outside the data centre area.  So from data centre room to the MDF room (electrical room of each building), it has to gone thru horizontal and vertical risers.  Are these expose to fire hazards?  I don’t know man, I just go outside my apartment and open the riser door, is not lock, and I can see all other OpenNet or Singtel or Starhub fibres running around.  Hmm… for my home, no security.  But I hope for such important SingTel Exchange, it is well guarded.  

[M1 & Starhub]

– Wait now, this is SingTel exchange on fire.  What does it have to do with Starhub and M1?  Starhub & M1 does not have own fibre to some part of Singapore.  So, they depends on SingTel and OpenNet to deliver the fibre for them.  So, partial of their network is rely on SingTel.

– OK.  That is strange.  I thought Starhub have Cable TV?  Sure this Cable TV don’t run from SingTel Exchange, right?  Yes and No.  Starhub cable TV within any building is an independent cable.  But from their cable distribution network, how many of these nodes are depending on SingTel to backhaul back to their broadcast node?  Oh, in between nodes, they can use SingTel.  As SingTel is the monopoly player in Singapore in terms of pipes and cabling.

– M1 has their own fibre ring, but it does not goes into every single building.  So, some of the network, they still need to depends on SingTel.

– Wait now, can’t M1 and Starhub build their own network?  I guess can.  But hey, if government did not give money to them to build, why should they build it?  I am not saying government have to give money for them to build.  I am just saying, building a fibre network needs lots of money.  Dig out the road, pull the fibre, installing nodes, we are talking about S$400 per meter is the cost I think.

– But M1 and Starhub earn profits in MULTIPLE MILLIONS every year.  Hey, don’t touch those money, it is share holder’s money, ya.  This reminds me about the past where the board always ask the listed company, how to increase revenue, how to improve bottom lines.  At the end of the board meeting, OK.  Let’s don’t do any thing, cut the CAPEX, etc.  Yeah, you CTO out there, hate to hear this, right?  Cut the Capex.  Freeze the Capex.  So, may be that is what happen la.

– Seriously, I think they should build diversity instead of relying on Singtel.

[Nucleus Connect]

– Starhub own Nucleus Connect, right?  Isn’t that a company that resell fibres?  So, why don’t Starhub use Nucleus Connect?  Hey, don’t say Starhub own Nucleus Connect.  So sensitive.  They have shares in the company.  That’s it.  

– Wait now, I remember, government give money, 250M to Nucleus Connect.  Can’t they build separate network?  Nope.  Nucleus Connect is a OpCo, they have to buy directly from OpenNet.  So, they rely on OpenNet.  Their job is to build network equipment on top of OpenNet fibre network.

– So, that means, people like LGA, My Republic and even Starhub depends largely on Nucleus Connect and because Nucleus Connect is based on OpenNet.  So, when fire broke out in the SingTel exchange, it affected the OpenNet, and thus affected all these ISP?  Yes.  That is basically it.  WOW, very scary, it is like the whole country is running on a single fibre network.

– Do you know that, nowadays, because IDA gives 1B to both OpenNet and Nucleus Connect, All the government can ONLY BUY from Nucleus Connect RSP.  They can’t even buy from other OpCo.  That is because government gave 250M to Nucleus Connect.  This is what I heard, don’t know whether it is true or not.  hahaha Only when the government needs backup or diversity link, then, they consider other OpCo.  


– They are the incumbent.  That’s it.  They control every thing.

– The CTOs of the company always denied me, they said “SingTel can sell us “Protected” circuit, with “Exchange Diversified” link”.  Aiyo, to all the CTOs, Network Managers, go check the facts.  I can tell you in Singapore, 95% of the network are not protected.  Means, from the exchange pull the local loop to you, is a single fibre path.  You want a protected circuit, yes, SingTel will give you protection by giving you 2x different fibres running on the SAME PIPE, and may be different SWITCH, but come out from the same exchange.  My dear friends, when excavator that does not have eyes, cut the fibre pipping, every single fibres get cut.  I pity those big corporation, banks who already pay TONS OF MONEY $$$ to Singtel for something that does not work.  Look at this fire example.  You got an idea?

– Exchange Diversity means form Exchange #1 pull a fibre go thru fibre path #1 deliver to point B.  And a second fibre runs from Exchange #2 pull a fibre go thru a different fibre path #2 which is not so close to path #1, and enter the building from another side or another MDF room.  That is what I call Exchange Diversity.  I seriously doubt that there are any Telco int he world do this.  Unless it is Government important operation centre that really needs such diversity.  like the Army, etc.  I don’t know.  So, I pity again for this CTOs thought they are getting real exchange diversity.  I pity them already pay so much money to Singtel for that.

Later I explain more how you can do this.


– Government give 750M I think to OpenNet.  To pull fibre separate fibre to residential and non-residential.

– So, the easy way out is… Singtel, please lease me the pipe.  And we will pull our own fibre in the pipe.  Oh ya.  fibre is different brand.  May be fibre equipment is different too.  These fibre are running on the SAME fiber PATH, different pipe nia.   But all exchanges for OpenNet == exchanges for SingTel?  Hmmm… OK.  May be I rent a small room from SingTel in their exchange.  

– HaHaHaHaHaHa… OK.  Some Citynet company was formed to do this.  And guess who owns CityNet.  Is it called CityNet?  And Guess who wants to buy over OpenNet?  CityNet.  See the connections?

– The people who wear the purple OpenNet shirts always have 2 sets of STICKERS.  And the FOREIGN TALENTS always asked the supervisor, boss, (shaking head), what should I use (shaking head), Singtel stickers or OpenNet stickers?  These foreign talents trying to decides whether this installation is a SingTel link or OpenNet link.  So that they can decide what brand of stickers to be placed on the Fiber termination box.  HAHAHA Always give me a good laugh.  Oh ya, OpenNet outsource the installation, talking to building management, etc to SingTel.  Every month, I am guessing SingTel gets a big fat pay check from OpenNet.  Hmmmmmmmmmm…. 750M form the government.

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– Aiya.  Don’t blame people la.  Who’s fault?  We should be grateful about IDA on the OpenNet thingy.  Otherwise, how is it possible that we the residents get 100Mbps fibre Internet at home within so fast timeframe.  Actually is good thing.

– So, how to fix it?  That’s IDA problem.

[SP Tel / Wimax / LTE]

– Singapore Power Telecom.  The newspaper make a good point.  It is just like the power.  It does not make sense to pull different power cable.  so it does not make sense to pull different fibre optic cable into a house.  Wait now.  Then, why can’t Internet delivered via Singapore Power?  13 years ago, Pacific Internet partner with SPTel to do Internet over Power line.  I am very sure power line technology is a mature technology by now.  Singapore Power have to dig the ground.  Singapore Power have the capability to reach every house hold.  So, why IDA cannot give some $$ for Singapore Power to come up with an alternative routes?  I am very sure it can be done.

– Wireless technologies are already there.  Licenses already given.  But what’s the problem?  the problem is licenses mostly given to existing mobile operations who is also fixed line operators.  So, within those Telco, may be they said, Capex not enough, no market for it.  But I am very sure after this event, every body will start realise the problem. So, all these banking, POS, Singapore pool, they should have major link run on fixed fiber, and then backup run by wireless.  That is why wireless is so important.

– How many of you are frustrated with Wireless@SG.  That is another problem need to be solved too. hahahaha

– Having said so much, I also don’t know what I am saying.  But I hope Singapore can learn from this lesson and then, develop an improve fibre strategies, etc.

Ok, time to look after my kids….

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