Direct data channel launched to connect Singapore firms with western China

SINGAPORE – The Singapore telecom regulator has launched a key project to connect businesses here with western China, after mainboard-listed telcos Singtel and StarHub separately announced that they would be developing fresh data links with their Chinese counterparts.

Through the China-Singapore (Chongqing) International Data Channel, Singapore companies will have immediate dedicated access to seven industrial parks in the south-western Chinese city of Chongqing, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Wednesday (Sept 11).

The IMDA touted the channel as offering support to firms in fields such as content streaming, gaming and online learning that plan to digitally expand their businesses to western China.

While the data channel is now available only for companies in the seven industrial parks in Chongqing, the plan is to enable data flows from all of western China to Singapore in the long run, routed through Chongqing, the IMDA added.

The new international data channel, billed as China’s first point-to-point international data channel with another country, is part of the Sino-Singapore Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI). The CCI – the third such government-to-government initiative between Singapore and China, after the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-city – was launched in 2015 to build up western China’s transport, finance and data links.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing last year told Chinese news agency Xinhua that the CCI complements China’s own Southern Transport Corridor campaign to connect provinces in the west of China to the sea with a north-south trade route.

Singtel and StarHub had already announced their separate agreements with the same three Chinese operators: China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. They will deliver high-speed connectivity through the data channel to industrial parks such as Liangjiang Digital Economy Industrial Park, China Zhigu Science Park, Xiyong Microelectronics Industrial Park, and Blockchain Innovation Industrial Base.

The Business Times understands that Singtel has already hooked up its infrastructure to the Chinese operators’ own networks. StarHub, which announced the tie-up in late August, needs to lay fresh terrestrial cables and aims to be ready for service by the first quarter of 2020, “subject to implementation progress with our Chinese partners”, a spokesman said.

Separately, Singtel also inked pacts on Wednesday to support seven Chongqing firms – from manufacturing, research, data-hosting and blockchain industries – in future Singapore operations.

These companies include mobile advertising firm Mobvista, market study service provider Listen (Chongqing) Data Technology, and data centre operator GDS, which recently tied up with Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC to build more data centres across China.

Singtel, which is majority-owned by state investor Temasek Holdings, had already signed a master services agreement with China Mobile earlier this year to share mobile network for business customers to roll out Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices in both countries.

Lim Seng Kong, managing director of Singtel’s global enterprise business, has now said in a statement that the new data channel will enable business between the Asia-Pacific and western China, with data connectivity to boost the use of emerging technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence and data analytics.

The latest partnerships came at the government-to-government Singapore-China (Chongqing) Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, held on Wednesday at the Shangri-La Hotel.

Other tie-ups inked at the event include ST Engineering’s plans to study line maintenance operations with Chongqing Airport Group, and to provide traffic, lighting and other smart city projects in a district of Chongqing, as well as a memorandum of understanding to help list western Chinese companies on the Singapore Exchange.

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