Monday, April 22, 2013

All rooms in new homes to get fibre broadband wiring

The Straits Times  |  April 18, 2013
New rule in building code means no need for wall drilling and ugly trunking

All new homes will have to come fitted with wiring delivering high-speed fibre broadband to every room, under a new rule that will spare owners the hassle of drilling through walls and concealing unsightly cables.

The requirement, which is similar to rules making electricity points and water pipes mandatory, is spelt out in a revised building code that was released yesterday.

All owners of new and existing buildings must also set aside a fixed amount of rent-free space so telecommunications companies can install equipment to improve indoor mobile signals.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said it wants to keep its code relevant to consumer needs as the number of smartphone and fibre broadband users continues to grow.

Deputy chief executive Leong Keng Thai added that the changes "will benefit consumers and improve their mobile and broadband experiences".

The revised code addresses two problems faced by home owners wanting to connect to the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, which promises surfing speeds of up to 1Gbps.

First, they have to drill a hole through the wall near the front door to pull fibre-optic cables into the house, and cover them up with ugly surface trunking.

Second, as fibre links come to only one point in the house, usually in the living room, users have to set up Wi-Fi - which is prone to slowdowns - to distribute the connection to the other rooms.

But now, developers will have to pre-install fibre-optic cables in the living room and lay Ethernet wiring in every room to distribute the broadband signals.

It will apply to all new developments approved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority from May 1. This means they are likely to hit the market as early as the second quarter of next year.

The new rule requiring building owners to set aside rent-free space for equipment to improve mobile signals covers all commercial and residential properties, as well as train and bus stations.

The IDA said these spaces can be located in designated equipment rooms, carparks or rooftops.

For years, telcos have been hampered by the high rents they have to pay to commercial landlords, condominium management committees and government agencies to house such equipment. The negotiations can lead to the spaces being auctioned and going to the firm with the highest bid.

All three telcos welcomed the change, saying that it would remove a major barrier in getting the space needed to improve indoor mobile coverage.

However, they noted, difficulties in accessing buildings will continue to be a major bugbear, as the code does not address cases where building owners resist giving telcos access to install or maintain their equipment.

SingTel and StarHub said they hope to work closely with building owners, developers and the authorities to secure the equipment space as quickly as possible and gain easy access for installation and maintenance.

But M1 said that the allocated space may not be sufficient for all three telcos' equipment.
The IDA's Mr Leong said the authority would monitor how building owners and operators respond to the revised code, and address any issues that arise.

Building owners who do not comply will be issued with a written order. If they still fail to cooperate, they can be jailed for up to three years, fined up to $10,000 or both.

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C

Senior Sales Director
DTZ Property Network Pte Ltd (L3007960A)

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