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Parliament Sitting on 3 October 2017

QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER


*10. Dr Tan Wu Meng: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) how much fail-safe redundancy is designed into (i) Singapore's domestic broadband Internet networks and (ii) offshore Internet connectivity; and (b) whether there are plans to enhance system redundancy in light of the growing dependency on Internet access which will arise from Smart Nation initiatives. 

Answer:

Mister Speaker, I thank Dr Tan Wu Meng for his question. He has raised an issue that is important to my Ministry and IMDA – the resilience of our international and domestic Internet connectivity. 

2 Let me start with Singapore’s international Internet connectivity. Singapore is a major Asia-Pacific hub for submarine cables. We currently have 19 cable systems that connect us directly to more than 33 countries. We have multiple direct connections to key hubs such as China, Europe, Japan and the United States, which enhances the resilience of our international Internet connectivity. 

3 We have benefitted from this resilience. The recent episode where our Internet links remained intact, despite damage to submarine cables caused by typhoons in Hong Kong and Macau in end-August 2017 is a good case in point. The fact that we had sufficient diversity and redundancy in international Internet connectivity, enabled us to reroute traffic through undamaged cables. In contrast, Internet connections in a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific were disrupted.  

4 Nonetheless, it is important that we continue to find ways to improve the redundancy and diversity of our international Internet connectivity. We will continue encouraging new submarine cables to land in Singapore, especially if they will provide Singapore with alternative connectivity routes to key hubs. To do so, IMDA will work with relevant government agencies and submarine cable operators to incentivise the landing of submarine cables, ensure sufficient landing resources, protect submarine cables from damage in our busy shipping lanes, and route cables to avoid disaster-prone areas.

5 Let me now turn to our domestic broadband Internet connectivity. Broadband Internet services are offered by multiple operators, over multiple networks. These include the Nationwide Broadband Network, mobile networks and operators’ own fixed-line networks. This diversity reduces the risks due to reliance on a single set of infrastructure, and makes our domestic broadband Internet connectivity more resilient.

6 My Ministry and IMDA regularly review and put in place measures to enhance the resilience of our broadband Internet services. One key measure is the Telecom Service Resiliency Code, which was last updated recently in 2016.  It aims to ensure that operators of key telecommunication infrastructure, invest in and enhance the resilience of their networks against service disruptions. Other measures include IMDA’s requirements for key fixed and mobile operators to conduct regular audits on their network designs, operational processes, business continuity planning and associated infrastructure and facilities. We will work closely with the industry to ensure that these regulations remain appropriate, effective and up-to-date.

7 In conclusion, my Ministry and IMDA recognise the importance of ensuring that our domestic and international Internet connectivity is diverse and robust. This is all the more critical as we strive to become a Smart Nation and Digital Economy. We will continuously monitor and review our policies and regulations, to achieve this goal. 

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