SingTel fined record $6 million for Bukit Panjang Exchange fire

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has penalised SingTel and two infrastructure providers for a major service disruption resulting from the fire at the Bukit Panjang Exchange in 2013.

SingTel was fined S$6 million for creating the conditions that resulted in the fire at the Exchange on 9 October 2013. The fire in turn damaged optical fibre cables and affected telecommunication services in the northern and western parts of Singapore, affecting close to 270,000 telecom and broadcast account subscriptions. Services were only fully restored on 17 October 2013.

The telco said in a statement that it accepted IDA’s decision and apologised again to customers for the inconvenience caused. The company has set new procedures in place to ensure that similar mistakes cannot happen again. “We welcome IDA’s review of our efforts as we strengthen our operations and networks to deliver the best customer experience.  We are also committed to enhancing industry co-operation to ensure that Singapore’s telecoms infrastructure remains resilient,” stated SingTel.

CityNet and OpenNet also received fines of S$300,000 and S$200,000 respectively for lapses in their obligations.

Leong Keng Thai, IDA’s Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms and Post), acknowledged that a service outage of the magnitude experienced was unprecedented, but stressed that it could have been avoided.

“With increasing dependency of businesses and consumers on telecommunications, a strong signal must be sent to telecommunication operators that they must take network resilience very seriously, and invest in necessary infrastructure, processes and training to prevent and minimise service outages. IDA will closely monitor the operators’ undertaking of the corrective measures and ensure that they are implemented,” he said.

“Resiliency does not mean that incidents will not happen. An important part of resiliency is to be prepared for incidents and to recover quickly. IDA will continue to review its regulatory frameworks to ensure that telecommunication operators take proactive steps to enhance the resilience of their networks and services. IDA will also take steps to further strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s telecommunication networks.”

IDA is already reviewing the resilience of all critical parts of Singapore’s infocomm infrastructure, and expects to complete the review in the second half of 2014. In addition, IDA has worked with the industry to put in place a set of operating procedures to improve inter-operator communication and coordination during major service disruptions, and will review the coordination process regularly.