NUS and StarHub partner to launch borderless campus

By Sol Gonzalez

The partnership will set up a dedicated data network that would be accessible with 5G powered e-SIMs issued by StarHub.   

NUS Chief Information Technology Officer, Tan Shui-Min and StarHub's Head of Enterprise Business Group, Tan Kit Yong signed the MoU at a ceremony held last week. Image: GovInsider.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is working with StarHub to establish Singapore’s first borderless campus. 

Under the agreement, StarHub is setting up a dedicated data network (DDN) that will act as the university’s private 5G network. 

The Borderless Campus initiative will include enhanced network security based on user profiles, and intelligent data collected from the e-SIMs that will help NUS in data-driven optimisation. 

The e-SIMs will enable users to access NUS’ resources from anywhere on the island without compromising security. 

This e-SIM card will authenticate users securely so that they can access the university’s intranet and information resources. 

“We believe that technology will enable NUS to transcend physical boundaries and enhance its global influence in the world,” said NUS Information Technology (IT) Chief Officer Tan Shui-Min at the MoU signing ceremony held last week.

The project has the potential to unleash new use cases of 5G-powered solutions in teaching and research, said StarHub’s Head of Enterprise Business Group, Tan Kit Yong. 

Borderless solutions 

The special 5G e-SIM will be able to access intranet services without the need for virtual private network (VPN) add-ons, from any place and time for borderless connectivity, NUS IT Senior Architect (Network), Ooi Bok Koon, said. 

This project seeks to empower NUS services and overall experience for students, professors, and staff, he added. 

Ooi said the main advantage of the 5G e-SIM technology is that it does not depend on physical appliances like routers or switches like traditional networking solutions. 

As a result, the solution is more scalable, he added. 

Traditionally to access intranet resources, most users connect to their organisation’s WiFi, but the wireless reach is limited by physical space. Since most WiFi systems generally have a limited radius coverage, the user loses connectivity when they leave the building or office space, Ooi said. 

On the other hand, 5G enabled devices have wider reach but can only access intranets through VPN connection. VPNs, however, can slow down internet speed and hinder productivity, Ooi noted. 

This is where StarHub’s specially provisioned e-SIM 5G network makes the difference. 

“When it comes to Borderless University solutions, [these] can give you the best of both worlds,” said Ooi.  

This solution enables users to access NUS private data networks without requiring a VPN or corporate-enrolled devices. Staff and students subscribed to StarHub’s private DDN for NUS can access internal resources from any location, providing greater flexibility. 

For instance, if a student is away from university facilities and wishes to access intranet resources like course registration, the e-SIM technology will allow them to do without risking slower connections with a VPN or repeated logins with WiFi. 

The NUS private data network is built on top of the StarHub 5G network in such a way that regular StarHub subscribers cannot connect to private data, hence ensuring data protection and security, Ooi added. 

On the road toward more flexibility 

NUS IT’s vision of going borderless is part of a five-year strategic plan to enhance cybersecurity and nurture a resilient workforce for the future.  

The introduction of ‘WiFi on the Move’ is one of the initiatives enabled by StarHub’s Enterprise 5G to advance this plan. 

This initiative pushes for “lighting fast, ultra reliable connectivity” with a portable 5G Wireless AP unit, said NUS’ Tan.  

The aim is to facilitate remote work for teaching and learning groups, enable campus security to report and file on the go during patrolling, and allow researchers to stream data securely back to NUS. 

Tan shared that the equipment required for this project cuts down copper cables and switch ports used in traditional WiFi setups, which reduces energy consumption in alignment with NUS IT’s commitment toward sustainability.  

Tan’s efforts in leading the university’s innovative strategies garnered her the title of Digital Leader of the Year at GovInsider’s Festival of Innovation 2024. 

Previously, NUS IT had launched solar-powered outdoor WiFi across all three campuses, accounting for an outdoor expense of 270 football fields approximately, Tan shared. 

These projects aim to enhance NUS’ competitive edge and advance the partnership with StarHub first established in 2022

In the future, the goal is to extend these borderless solutions globally so that NUS students and staff abroad can have uninterrupted connectivity to the university’s resources.