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Singapore Liberalizes Int'l Net Exchange Services

The Singapore government this week liberalized the provision of international Internet exchange services.

Any company that meets certain conditions can apply to the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore(TAS) for a license to offer access to the global Internet backbone and exchange traffic.

Singapore's Minister of Communications and Technology, Yeo Cheow Tong, announced the new policy at this year's CommunicAsia, a leading regional telecommunications trade show.

"A resilient and effective information infrastructure would greatly strengthen Singapore's position as a regional business hub," said Yeo Cheow Tong. "As part of the initiatives to achieve this goal, I am pleased to announce that with immediate effect, TAS will liberalize the provision of International Internet Exchange Services in Singapore."

"The move to allow more providers of Internet exchange services in Singapore will enhance Singapore's attractiveness as a portal for high-speed access to the Internet backbone," continued the minister.

The minister also said that Asian ISPs will have more means to interconnect via Singapore encouraging the development of an intra-Asian Internet network.

The duration of the license will be 3 years, renewable for 3-year terms. The license fee will comprise an initial one-time fee of $50,000 (US$29,400) and an annual recurrent fee of 1 percent of the audited annual gross turnover with a minimum of $10,000 (US$5,900).

However, the regulations requiring 51 percent local ownership would still apply to companies applying for the license, leaving some pundits to believe that Singapore was still behind it's closest regional competitor, Hong Kong, in liberalizing its Internet market.

"Singapore has a long way to go to become open and liberal," said Telecom Asia editor Grahame Lynch. "Hong Kong is completely open."

Lynch pointed out that anyone can set up an ISP in Hong Kong or provide international access exchanger services.