SINGAPORE: A Tengah town resident, Mr Sia, encountered connectivity issues when attempting to lock his rented bike using a bike-sharing app.
Mr Sia, an IT manager, received the keys to his new flat in Plantation Village in November last year.
The weak mobile signal prevented him from accessing the app at various locations within the estate, including his home, void deck, corridor, car park, and open spaces.
Despite occasional visits to his unit while finalizing renovation plans, he consistently faced signal problems.
Other residents in the area shared similar experiences, particularly noting the first-floor car park as a dead zone.
The frustration with weak mobile signals was previously highlighted in a TODAY article.
Tengah town, a 700ha development, began the key collection in August last year.
By the end of January, two Build-to-Order (BTO) projects, Plantation Acres and Plantation Grange, were completed, while Plantation Village is still under construction, with residential blocks finished.
Out of the expected 30,000 public housing units, 2,908 households had collected their keys and moved in by 18 January.
Experts identify infrastructure challenges as key contributors to poor mobile connectivity in Tengah
Experts suggest that the poor mobile connectivity in Tengah may be attributed to a lack of appropriate infrastructure, the distance from existing cell base towers, or congestion due to a rapid increase in users, as reported by CNA.
Professor Biplab Sikdar from the National University of Singapore explained that the incomplete deployment of infrastructure for the mobile phone network is the primary reason.
According to Prof Sikdar, ongoing construction and buildings in progress may hinder telcos from accessing planned sites for installing base stations, crucial for providing adequate coverage with good signal strength.
Base station antennas are typically placed on top of buildings, such as the rooftops of residential blocks in Tengah.
Associate Professor A S Madhukumar from Nanyang Technological University emphasized the importance of carefully planning base station placement to ensure optimal coverage and minimize interference.
In a town under construction, telcos might face obstacles in placing base stations if buildings are not ready or if cables are not fully laid out.
Experts pointed out technical issues as the reason for inadequate existing infrastructure in neighboring estates, explaining that the equipment may not have enough capacity to support additional network traffic from Tengah.
In addressing potential solutions for improving mobile signals in the short term, experts have suggested the deployment of temporary infrastructure.
Associate Professor Madhukumar highlighted the use of a mobile cell-on-wheels, a portable unit typically comprised of a trailer or truck with cellular antennas.
This temporary mini-cell site has the potential to enhance connectivity.
However, it’s worth noting that such solutions may come with a higher cost and limited coverage.
Telecom companies collaborate with HDB to install base stations and improve mobile connectivity in Tengah
CNA reported that telecommunication companies are responding to concerns about poor mobile connectivity in Tengah.
They have indicated that the installation of base stations is crucial for improvement.
Access to rooftops, where these base stations are located, is contingent upon approval from the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Singtel, through a spokesperson, expressed readiness to install the necessary infrastructure to enhance mobile connectivity in Tengah.
However, they emphasized that this process is subject to obtaining approvals from HDB, with whom they have been closely collaborating.
Starhub disclosed its coordination efforts with HDB’s schedule for base station installations in Tengah, aligning the process with the completion of housing estates.
The spokesperson highlighted that installation works on rooftops can only commence once the construction of the roof is finished, and HDB can facilitate access for such operations.
Their rollout plans are synchronized with HDB’s schedule to ensure consistent and reliable connectivity as more housing developments are progressively completed.
M1 also stated its collaboration with the Housing Board to install base stations, aiming to enhance mobile signals in Tengah.
Online users share connectivity woes in Singapore
Discussion on this matter unfolded in the comment section of a CNA Facebook post.
One user concurred with an expert, pointing out that signal quality is affected if your block is situated far from the base station.
A different user shared their experience, noting that Sengkang faced similar challenges many years ago, even receiving signals from a Malaysian telco.
The user expressed surprise that in Singapore, a relatively small country, there are still gaps in coverage.
Yet another user highlighted that the problem isn’t exclusive to new estates.
They recently faced connectivity issues at Block 33 Marine Crescent (facing ECP), where they couldn’t receive signals from Singaporean telcos and instead connected to an Indonesian network.
Users weigh in on housing estate concerns
In response to the discussion, a user brought attention to the affordability factor, stating that in inexpensive housing estates, one shouldn’t expect better conditions than in other areas.
Another user added a perspective, emphasizing the importance of understanding the state of infrastructure in a new estate before moving.
According to this user, those seeking robust infrastructure should consider settling in more mature estates.
Yet another user criticized the planning process, asserting that it appeared to be hastily executed without thorough consideration.
The user expressed concern that the focus on construction seemed to override the need for comprehensive planning and thoughtful development.
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