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IDA begins probe into SingTel disruption

SINGAPORE — Three days after a fire caused massive disruption to telecommunication services islandwide, some customers yesterday were still having problems with fibre broadband services and SingTel mioTV set-top boxes, as the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) initiated a “full investigation” into the cause of the incident.

IDA begins probe into SingTel disruption

The Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim gave a press briefing after a visit to SingTel’s Bukit Panjang Exchange. This follows a service disruption caused by a fire at SingTel’s Bukit Panjang Exchange on Wednesday. Photo: Ernest Chua

SINGAPORE — Three days after a fire caused massive disruption to telecommunication services islandwide, some customers yesterday were still having problems with fibre broadband services and SingTel mioTV set-top boxes, as the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) initiated a “full investigation” into the cause of the incident.

This is despite SingTel saying that it had connected all damaged fibre cable lines by 7.15am yesterday. It explained that “there may be a need for limited network adjustments, which may affect service performance for some customers”.

A SingTel spokesperson said the company could not give an estimate of how many of its subscribers were still affected, but it has been receiving calls throughout the day to assist customers as some “may experience difficulties in bringing equipment such as modems and set-top boxes back into operation”.

SingTel said that it will deploy engineers to review the quality of the repair work done so far and that the company will “work closely with IDA to review the robustness of our systems and minimise the impact of such accidents in future”.

The disruption has led to questions by consumers and businesses about the contingency plans in place for business continuity as the island gets wired up.

When asked about compensation to its customers, both corporate and personal, SingTel said that it was in the process of evaluating this and would make an announcement “soon, in due course”.

Issuing a statement yesterday, the IDA said that while the operators and affected parties were able to “pull together resources in a concerted effort to restore services, this is nevertheless a serious incident affecting many consumers and businesses”.

The Telecommunication Service Resiliency Code requires operators to ensure their networks and services are resilient, and when outages do occur, to restore the services “expeditiously”. The IDA added that it has “launched a full investigation into the incident to find out the cause and will take appropriate action to prevent it from happening again”.

Under IDA’s service resiliency code, SingTel may be subjected to a financial penalty.

The fire broke out at SingTel’s Bukit Panjang Exchange on Wednesday, leading to a disruption of services that hit banks, homes, government agencies and other telcos, among others. The disruption came less than a week after IDA handed M1 a record S$1.5 million fine for a service disruption to 2G and 3G mobile telephone services in January that lasted more than 60 hours, affecting some 250,000 M1 users.

Four SingTel customers TODAY spoke to — living in Woodlands and Choa Chu Kang — said that their services were back up as of Thursday. But Ms Pauline Tan, 44, said her home broadband and telephone services were still down as of 6.50pm yesterday.

Ms Tan, who lives near Upper Paya Lebar, said her family had been trying to reach SingTel since Thursday evening, making eight to 10 calls in all, and her husband was on hold for up to 30 minutes, to no avail.

“What is the point of having the hotline when customers can’t speak with anyone?” she said.

Elsewhere, OpenNet said it had restored all of the affected cables that were damaged during the fire. M1, which uses OpenNet cables, said its customers may face problems “during the reconnection process, and we are contacting affected customers and working with OpenNet to help restore their service”.

StarHub said that as of 2.30pm on Thursday, all cable TV, cable broadband and digital voice services for its affected customers were fully restored. As of 7pm yesterday, 95 per cent of its fibre broadband services have been restored.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and working to restore services for the remaining affected customers as soon as we can,” a StarHub spokesperson said.

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