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Singapore, with a population of 4.86 million on 710.2 km2 (274.2 sq miles), has awarded StarHub the contract to develop and operate a nationwide broadband network that will provide homes and offices with Internet connections of up to 1 gigabyte per second.

Under the terms of the agreement announced on Friday, StarHub, Singapore’s number two telecom firm, will become the wholesale provider of broadband access to companies offering Internet access as well as other services such as videoconferencing and high-speed data transmission.

The other contenders for the contract were Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), MobileOne and a consortium led by Axia Netmedia and including Cisco Systems.

StarHub expects to spend about S$1 billion for the network over the 25-year period of the licence.

The Next Generation National Broadband Network is part of Singapore’s “Intelligent Nation 2015” project to provide seamless connectivity around the island-state. In September last year, Singapore gave the contract to develop the “passive infrastructure” for its nationwide broadband network to a consortium led by Canada’s Axia Netmedia.

OpenNet has proposed wholesale prices of S$15 (US$10) per month per residential fiber connection and S$50 (US$35) per month per non-residential connection. These prices will be extended to the next layer of operating companies (OpCos) which will repackage services atop this layer and retail packages to consumers at a higher price.

The Singapore government will provide a grant of up to S$250 million to Nucleus Connect for the project. Together with the grant of up to S$750 million for the Next-Gen NBN Network Company, OpenNet, the government is investing up to a total of S$1 billion to put in place the Next-Gen NBN.

StarHub Limited recently announced the launch of its HSPA+ mobile service. HSPA+ increases StarHub’s mobile broadband network capacity to support speeds of up to 21Mbps, from 14.4Mbps previously.

Singapore launched a maritime WiMAX network last year. It offers mobile internet access to ships in the Port of Singapore and up to 15km from Singapore’s southern coastline.

The WIreless-broadband-access for SEaPort, or WISEPORT, project was the first project to be launched under the Infocomm@SeaPort program (pdf) – a three-year S$12 million joint initiative by the port authorities (MPA) and telecoms regulator (IDA) to promote the use of infocomm technologies in the port and maritime community.

QMax is the appointed operator for the WISEPORT services.

QMax is offering free 512kbps unlimited data access during the first year of the WISEPORT launch. Subscribers will each receive a thumbdrive-sized WiMAX modem which can be used to access wireless broadband anywhere from the mainland Singapore to southern port waters and offshore islands.

Wireless@SG is a Wi-Fi powered network provided free (for the first 2 years). Beyond that, the three operators may consider extending the free periods should there be a strong public interest for it. It’s operated by iCell in the East area, Singtel in the North area and QMax in the West area.

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