Singapore’s big leap to IP

By : |June 14, 2005 0

SINGAPORE: Inaugurating imbX 2005, the mega tradeshow organized by Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) minister for information communication and the arts Dr Lee Boon Yang, spoke about the new opportunities provided by digital technology, the need for countries and governments to adapt quickly, and specifically talked about the promise of VoIP.

Immediately afterward, IDA officials announced the new IP policy opening up a tightly regulated telecom market to IP telephony-and to one of the most liberal policy regimes in existence. The policy would allow a host of players to allow IP telephony through traditional eight-digit phone numbers, but at a new level “3” competing with the incumbents such as SingTel.

These numbers (for example, 3478-1234) would differentiate the IP service to the user, who would thus be aware that QoS might be inferior to traditional TDM services. While IP telephony has been in existence for years (for instance, the Skype service), it does not usually use phone numbers, but user IDs. As is usual for IP telephony, the user would be able to use the service from anywhere in the world with a broadband connection. Subscribers will be able to use either software on PCs, or IP phones that look and work like plain old phones.

With this policy, most traditional regulatory restrictions on telephony would not apply. For instance, no QoS (quality of service specs) restrictions, no emergency services mandate, no need for phonebook or directory services. However, those wishing to comply with these latter options could qualify for a special license and get a traditional level “6” number (for instance 6247-1234) for Singapore residents’ use only. Such a service would be indistinguishable from a regular TDM-based phone service, only a lot cheaper for long distance calls.

By contrast, India is several steps behind on the IP regulatory framework. While consumer use of IP telephony is allowed for PC to PC use, and services like Skype-Out can be used for calling public numbers outside India, corporate use of VoIP is still bogged down by regulation that requires companies to run a VoIP network for their closed user group that is separate from their traditional analog voice PBX, and interconnects are disallowed. While this was partly relaxed early this year with a single physical network being allowed on a case-by-case basis, a DoT notification on March 17 reversed that relaxation, pushing back progress on IP technology in India by a year or more.

The imbX (Infocomm Media Business Exchange) tradeshow incorporates CommunicAsia, Broadcast Asia and EnterpriseIT. With 2,238 exhibitors from 55 countries, the event expects to draw 59,000 international attendees (nearly half from overseas) and focuses on next generation networks, VoIP, WiMAX, 3G, biometrics, and telco services, apart from broadcast technologies such as interactive TV and radio and mobile entertainment.

The author traveled to imbX at the hospitality of the Singapore IDA.

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