a young asian woman with a router and laptop

Earlier this March, research firm Statista updated its rankings for countries with the fastest fixed average broadband speeds.

And Singapore topped the figurative cohort.

Boasting a stellar average of 277.57 Mbps, we surpassed the likes of Hong Kong (275.17 Mbps), Iceland (268.72 Mbps), Chile (263.63 Mbps) and even China (259.7 Mbps), just to name a few.  

In other words, we can (somewhat) claim to have the fastest Internet speed in the world, though when you’re staring at buffering icons over on YouTube, it certainly feels like anything but. Nevertheless, this is still an achievement worth celebrating, as Singapore works towards an islandwide broadband network that can accommodate up to 10Gbps speeds.

But beyond improving household access to broadband, how has our islandwide broadband network actually impacted Singapore? We’ll take a closer look at that in this exploratory piece, but first, we need to talk about the NGNBN.

The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN)

nighttime depiction of singapore

Spearheaded by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) as part of the Intelligent Nation 2015 master plan, the Next Generation National Broadband Network, or NGNBN was an islandwide engineering project launched in 2009 and completed in 2014.

In short, it aimed to bring high-speed broadband access to households and businesses across Singapore, and in 2016, the project was awarded a Top 50 placing in the prestigious Engineering Feats@IES-SG50 competition.

Since then, more goals have been set for the Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN), as it is referred to now. As reported by The Straits Times in February, then-Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s Budget 2024 speech expressed the importance of upgrading Singapore’s connectivity infrastructure for speeds of up to 10Gbps, and that part of our national budget would be allocated to doing so by 2030.

This aims to ensure the country’s readiness to support and leverage future developments in artificial intelligence, while also improving Internet connectivity for Singaporeans as a whole.

Interested in learning more about the NGNBN? Check out the official IMDA fact sheet.

How has the NBN helped Singapore progress?

1. Home Broadband Access increased by 8% between 2017-2022

an icon showing a wifi router

Over the past five to seven years, broadband access in our homes has improved tremendously due to the NBN, allowing the vast majority of Singaporeans to enjoy new technologies like XGSPON and WiFi 7.

Notably, between 2017 and 2022, the IMDA recorded a  8% increase in residential broadband access, growing from approximately 91% to 99%. What is perhaps more surprising is that senior citizen-only households – specifically, people aged 60 and above – actually displayed the biggest leap of all, catapulting from just over 55% to about 92%.

Source: IMDA Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage by Individuals (via IMDA)

But while the overall uptick might not seem like much, it’s worth keeping in mind that Singapore’s population also increased by approximately 300,000 people during this time – which is rather impressive when you consider COVID-19 also occurred in a similar window. Naturally, the NBN isn’t the only factor in play, but it’s safe to assume that it contributed to this remarkable change.

2. Smoother Work-from-Home (WFH) transitions during COVID-19

a team of people having a video conference

Speaking of COVID-19, one of the major changes that it introduced was the shift to WFH formats. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, 49.3% of Singapore’s labour force was working from home, and the presence of the NBN presumably helped to make that transition easier in some regards.

Source: Impact of COVID-19: Remote Working in Singapore (via Ministry of Manpower)

To be more specific, while some businesses would have found the shift more challenging due to their nature of their work, the act of accessing the Internet from home (assuming you had a work laptop or desktop) was probably not an issue for most employees.

We have our strong broadband infrastructure to thank for that foundation. Our (relatively) easy access to online clouds and shared folders due to the NBN made these transitions to WFH formats relatively streamlined, though it probably did take some getting used to!

3. 66% of Singaporean seniors appreciate the benefits of digital technology

an old lady enjoying a video call with her family

Aside from work, we also rely on the Internet for a swath of other purposes – including communication, information, entertainment, and even food. Having easier access to high-speed broadband services, at least compared to before the implementation of the NBN has certainly allowed us to enjoy many more conveniences.

Plus, it’s not just the youngsters who appreciate the Internet. The inaugural Singapore Digital Society Report, which was published by the IMDA in 2023, mentions that 66% of Singapore’s senior citizens (those aged 60 and above) appreciate how digital technology has improved their quality of life.

Source: Singapore Digital Society Report 2023, p.16 (via IMDA)

However, the same report also highlights a potentially larger concern – only 51% of Singapore’s general population (those aged 15 and older) are ready to accept the risks that often accompany technological advancement.

The ever-growing number of online threats, coupled with a relative lack of technical know-how concerning new technologies, has culminated in an increased wariness towards them, which will certainly need to be addressed as Singapore moves towards a 10Gbps-capable Nationwide Broadband Network.

Preparing for islandwide 10Gbps broadband speeds

asian family using a laptop in their living room

Nevertheless, with so many developments in the pipeline for our NBN, it’s worth asking how we can better leverage the incoming connectivity boost.

Considering that 10Gbps broadband speeds will become much more accessible in Singapore than they are now, a good starting point would be to equip ourselves with a better understanding of newer technologies, like XGSPON or WiFi 7.

Knowing how they fundamentally operate will not only help us understand our various broadband needs at home, but also let us inform and educate our loved ones. This way, we can make more informed decisions for our household while also reducing the associated risks.