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Heng Kwee Tong, Head of engineering and customer solutions, SPTel

IAA interviewed Heng Kwee Tong, head of engineering and customer solutions at SPTel, on network resiliency, managing costs, and automating in times of crisis.

A joint venture between ST Engineering and Singapore Power Group, digital services provider SPTel owns, builds and powers communications and infrastructure services in Singapore.

IAA interviewed Heng Kwee Tong, head of engineering and customer solutions at SPTel on the importance of a resilient network, as well as meeting the digital transformation needs of businesses in Singapore and across the region.


IAA: With a gloomy economy ahead, especially for the Asia region, the ability to scale and to ensure business continuity has become critical for business survival. What are some key strategies that you believe would work for organisations in Singapore and around the region?

Heng Kwee Tong (HKT): We are seeing businesses in the region trying to recover from the uncertainty through digitisation and digitally transforming their processes and businesses. Cost is seen as a major challenge and businesses are looking at ways of reducing cost and their total cost of ownership. 

It is also critical for businesses to be able to respond fast to changing user requirements. This calls for a flexible and scalable network. Businesses need to be flexible in their utilisation of technology and think of ‘smarter’ ways of being more productive and efficient. 


IAA: What is the importance of a resilient network as we move towards digital collaboration and more e-services?

HKT: According to EY, as we move beyond the pandemic, success for telecommunications firms in the ‘new normal’ will depend on building network resilience and reach while driving positive customer perceptions. 

Telcos have experienced significantly higher network demand globally during the crisis, with the initial lockdowns triggering reported traffic spikes of between 10 percent and 70 percent. 

It is especially important for businesses to have networks that are resilient, defendable and equipped with sufficient redundancy to ensure uninterrupted service to their users. Thus, reliable connectivity is both critical for productivity and essential to customer retention. 

In fact, no business wants to suffer from downtime due to network issues or cyber-attacks which can cause major disruptions to businesses’ productivity and is essential for improved responsiveness as an element of superior customer service. 

With network traffic fluctuations becoming increasingly unpredictable with increased digitalisation, organisations need to have the option of scaling their bandwidth as required while managing their cost, using a pay as you use model. 


IAA: What are some ‘smarter’ ways of doing things to manage cost and ensure business growth (such as automating mundane tasks or human intensive roles, smart robots, smart factories)?

HKT: The new normal is going to be about automation and digitalisation, with the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more relevant as we tackle manpower and cost issues. 

In line with the government’s push for Smart Nation initiatives, the adoption of smart robots, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT technologies can reduce the cost of labour, enable predictive maintenance and improve insight driven decision making.

The challenge is in adopting a solution that does not require organisations to invest heavily in infrastructure, hardware and long-term maintenance.

They can look towards utilising ‘as-a-service’ solutions for IoT implementation for instance.

SPTel offers IoT-a-a-S which is a one-stop solution for IoT deployment that removes the hassle of managing multiple vendors, all on a subscription model. 

We provide the gateway, device management platform, compute power and backhaul. These components are all scalable so organisations can increase their IoT deployment as needed.

At SPTel, we enable Multi-Access Edge Cloud Computing (MEC) which we provide as a scalable compute resource at our pervasive hubs that are close to the data source. 

This reduces the latency for device performance when compared to computing on public cloud, and is also more cost effective and scalable then an on-premise computing solution.

Businesses should also look into what kind of network they are relying on for their mission critical operations. 

SPTel uses a 2-tier network structure which reduces the number of hops data takes to travel from point to point and is optimised for ultra-low latency performance of less than one millisecond across the island.

Finally, all our services are supported by a software defined network with network functions virtualisation. This allows us to push new network requirements and capabilities on the fly. 

When combined with our ultra-low latency network, pervasive edge computing locations and IoT-a-a-S solution, IoT device performance and cost management can be improved.


IAA: How should Telcos redefine the need to deliver digital services to meet the digital transformation needs of businesses?

HKT: In times such as these, it has become more important than ever for Telcos to offer flexibility, resilience and ‘everything-as-a-service’ capabilities to enable rapid response to changing and dynamic business needs, while improving total cost of ownership.

These digital services could include security features such as proactive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) detection and automated mitigation services which SPTel offers through our Software Defined Network.

Its in-built DDoS detection provides real-time alerts so that users can subscribe to DDoS mitigation when needed. Additional cybersecurity requirements eg: virtual firewall can also be provisioned on demand via our Software Defined Network (SDN).

AI monitors the network, auto-optimises and reroutes traffic on detection of disruptions and has the ability to self-heal from any such disruption. The SDN-enabled management dashboard also provides improved network visibility and control for users who can enjoy faster turnaround times.

SPTel is also looking to innovate and provide services that match the new normal of segregated teams and WFH. That is why SPTel’s SD WAN solution, enabled on an SDN, is going to revolutionise the way organisations plan for and control their network. 

The SD WAN solution will allow IT managers to manage each WFH location as a branch office, setting security protocols and network traffic prioritisation. Supported by an SDN, bandwidth and cybersecurity can also be customised to meet the needs of different branch locations.


IAA: Why is the shift towards flexibility and agility important? For the network to lower their total cost of ownership and pay only for what is needed and scale up as required (not locked down to contracts)?

HKT: With network traffic fluctuations becoming increasingly unpredictable with increased digitalisation, organisations need to have the option of managing their cost using a pay as you use model. 

By provisioning services on an ‘as-needed’ basis, end users pay only for the bandwidth and services required, instead of over provisioning capacity for occasional peak usage.

This in turn drastically improves a company’s cost-savings by eliminating the need to be locked into a contract for a definite period. 

For instance, consumers who are on a 2-year fixed bandwidth plan cannot choose to pay less if they would like to scale down their data bandwidth. With a pay as you use model, organisations can control their usage and spending according to their needs.


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