Published on Sep 22, 2014
Singtel will invest $500 million over the next five years and hire 1,000 engineers as part of a three-pronged strategy to build strengths in cyber security, smart cities and analytics.
Chief executive Chua Sock Koong told The Straits Times that the telco will set up an Asia-Pacific Cyber Security Competency Centre (ACE) and incubation labs.
These facilities will experiment with fresh ideas that can then be commercialised here and in markets where Singapore has a footprint such as in Australia, India and some African countries.
SingTel is undertaking this move in a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the Economic Development Board (EDB) to secure relationships with local and foreign organisations relevant to its strategy.
EDB chairman Leo Yip said the partnership will result in new digitisation capabilities and manpower development, and will “position Singapore as the digital innovation capital of Asia”.
“This is the first time the EDB has embarked on a strategic partnership of this nature – to work with SingTel to drive innovation, catalyse partnerships and build digital capabilities in analytics, cyber security and smart cities,” he added.
The EDB sees SingTel as a global company whose new initiatives serve as an “anchor” for the nation’s digitisation ecosystem.
Its strength in such areas will encourage other firms to offer digital services and attract businesses here that will need them.
Digitisation has become a global mega trend where corporations are moving from analogue operations in human resources, sales and other areas to digital processes such as online transactions for procurement and customer engagement. It enables them to get real-time and “always on” data for faster decision-making, which translates into better business.
For SingTel, the digitisation strategy is a great opportunity to become more than just a telco.
Ms Chua noted that it could continue to offer “dumb pipes” – that is, just provide communication networks for firms – but this would be a doomed strategy.
“Before, a consumer would come to SingTel and take up a mobile line with data service. Then he would watch YouTube videos and use Google search, but these applications would not be ours.”
The telco does not benefit from any revenue earned by such applications, Ms Chua added.
“To stay relevant, we must participate actively, work with new partners and catalyse the significant competitive advantage we have.”
SingTel, the largest firm on the Singapore Exchange, will launch ACE in the first half of next year.
The centre will work with international research and academic partners on big-data security analytics and predictive security intelligence. It will also develop various threat scenarios and solutions.
Said Ms Chua: “We’ll also have a cyber range lab for security resilience testing. We’ll work on realistic threat simulation with customers to enable competency building.”
Under its smart cities initiative, the telco will work with a local university to build a new smart campus solution. It said it is unable to release details because the deal is being finalised.
Work will continue on segment analytics. This can involve looking at areas such as monitoring human traffic and crowd behaviour during large events. Or it can involve examining profiles of tourists, the key attractions they visit here and how much they spend.
“For these projects, we’ll hire and train 1,000 engineers, and give them projects that directly impact the work of our corporate clients,” said Ms Chua.
To attract engineers to do engineering work instead of turning to banking or sales, SingTel is reviewing salary packages. Market rates for new engineers come to about $3,200 a month.
SingTel is also looking worldwide for new technologies that can be combined with what it is doing locally for global sales.
It will comb through technologies developed by portfolio companies that are being funded by its venture capital arm, Innov8, or in other countries such as Israel or in areas like Silicon Valley.
Where it does not own the technologies, it might acquire the companies or partner with them.
SingTel’s latest initiatives complement its move into the digital mobile advertising arena, where it has invested nearly $1 billion to enhance its marketing activities.
It spent US$321 million (S$407 million) in 2012 to buy Amobee and another US$385 million for Adconion and Kontera, all in the digital mobile advertising industry.