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The crucial role of telcos in a Smart Nation

It is important that telcos leverage multi-cloud technology to move more data, systems and applications so as to enable far greater ease of interaction between multiple devices. This will eventually help enhance security, performance and operational efficiency for users in the city-state.

EVERY smart city is built around big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). These two components are fundamental in shaping smart cities, and are the basis of how they function.

More than just having a steadfast infrastructure in place, an efficient and secure network is needed to handle and process the large amounts of data from the millions of IoTs required to run the city.

According to government data, Singapore's mobile penetration rate was nearly 150 per cent in June 2016 , with residential wired broadband penetration and wireless penetration at 98.4 per cent and 193 per cent respectively, figures among the highest in the world.

To keep up with demand, local key telecommunication providers (telcos) have announced the rollout of their respective IoT networks - all in line with Singapore's Smart Nation goal, fuelled by the Infocomm Development Agency's (IDA) 10-year master plan, which aims to integrate digital technology seamlessly across offices, households and public services.


With strong network connectivity being an essential building block in managing the increasing uptake of digital technology, there is a need for telcos to expand existing infrastructure, and invest in improving their network capacity, speed and latency to match the expectations of a 5G-enabled Smart Nation.

According to global consultancy and research firm Analysys Mason, total revenue from IoT alone in Singapore is projected to reach S$714 million in 2025 - of which connectivity and services will account for S$95 million. These figures are testament to the massive, mostly untapped revenue available to telcos - revenue which can only be further unlocked if they devote greater focus towards better optimisation of their networking infrastructures.

With our telcos playing such a crucial role in achieving our Smart Nation goals, it is important that they look towards leveraging a multi-cloud technology approach to move more data, systems and applications to the cloud, in order to enable far greater ease of interaction between multiple devices. Consequently, the use of multi-cloud will also help enhance security, performance and operational efficiency for users in the city-state.


As we embrace the dawn of a new digital era, telcos no doubt have an immensely important role to play in ensuring connectivity across our Smart Nation. Gone are the days when their main priority was to simply keep traffic flowing, for they now have to also pave the road towards a reality of new, all-encompassing mega services.

Perhaps then, the more pertinent question to ask would instead be how they can get there. To name but a few, they should look towards strategies including:

  • Upgrading the edge: Make the edge more than just a transport entry point - the edge needs to become a cloud surface.
  • Evolving from simple infrastructure: Aligning of infrastructures to provide efficient, seamless connectivity and infrastructure on-demand that will make it easy to adopt and integrate mega services that leverage next-generation technology such as augmented reality, blockchain and IoT.
  • The creation of mega services: Adopt new development methods like DevOps that present containers, micro services and Kubernetes to manage the disparate, yet agile, network of application development.
  • A priority towards consumer protection: Telcos need to ensure automated, cloud-delivered security in every part of the network - from individual devices to the access layer and all the way back to the core.

Only by embracing innovation across networking can telcos truly capitalise on today's digital transformation, entrench themselves as that vital cog in the Smart Nation machine, and set themselves up for sustained, long-term success.

  • The author is vice president and managing director for Asean at Juniper Networks.