|Singapore's leading carrier SingTel has been fined 6 million Singapore dollars (4.8 million U. S. dollars) for service disruptions due to a fire, the Infocomm Development Authority said on Tuesday.
It is the largest fine ever meted out to a telecommunications operator in Singapore.
The hour-long fire at SingTel's Bukit Panjang Internet exchange crippled essential services from banking to health records retrieval across Singapore in October last year. It was caused by the use of an unauthorized blowtorch by a SingTel maintenance staff, which sparked a slow-burning fire that went undetected as a result of further fire safety lapses and human error.
Some 270,000 telecom and broadcast subscribers were affected by the disruption. Affected services were restored several days later.
National fiber broadband network builder OpenNet and its business trust manager CityNet were also fined 200,000 and 300,000 Singapore dollars (160,000 and 240,000 U.S. dollars), respectively, for failing to comply with safety procedures and restore services.
The resultant outage was "of a magnitude that is unprecedented, but more importantly, that could have been avoided," said Leong Keng Thai, deputy chief executive of the Infocomm Development Authority.
The authority said the three operators had not "fulfilled their respective obligations, such as to provide sufficiently resilient telecommunications systems and services, and to restore services to affected end users as quickly as possible when the service disruptions occurred."
The disruptions following the fire could have been prevented had SingTel enforced standard operating procedures and work safety practices, it said.
The authority said that following the incident, the operators have conducted their own investigations, and have proposed measures to address their various shortcomings.
It has already embarked on a review of the resilience of all parts of Singapore's infocomm infrastructure, and the review is expected to be completed in the second half of this year.