Singapore on track to roll out 5G mobile networks by 2020: Iswaran

Singapore on track to roll out 5G mobile networks by 2020: Iswaran

Singapore is moving another step forward in the process of rolling out 5G mobile networks by 2020 with the launch of its second public consultation on issues like regulatory frameworks and policies for the next-generation network. Ahmad Khan with more.

SINGAPORE: Singapore is moving another step forward in the process of rolling out 5G mobile networks by 2020 with the launch of its second public consultation on issues like regulatory frameworks and policies for the next-generation network. 

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) said in a press release on Tuesday (May 7) that the feedback received will assist it in facilitating 5G network rollout by the stated timeframe and identify innovative applications and services riding on the new platform. 

It has been said that 5G will shape the future of our technological landscape, and IMDA fleshed this out saying the new networks promise not just faster mobile broadband but also greater reliability, lower latency and the ability to connect more devices. 

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For consumers, this means cloud gaming - the ability to play compute-intensive games on a low-end mobile device because the compute resources are in the cloud - becomes a possibility. Businesses, too, can tap on the network to introduce services such as autonomous vehicles, the regulator said. 

Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said separately in Parliament on Tuesday that 5G technology and networks will be a “critical part” of Singapore’s digital economy, and the country is “on track” to achieving the target of rolling out 5G mobile networks by 2020. 

Some of the key proposals IMDA made include:

  • Facilitate sustainable competition with at least two nationwide 5G networks at the outset, while encouraging telcos to partner up to build out the infrastructure. It is mandatory to provide wholesale service though, which means Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) like Circles.Life, for example, could lease the network to provide 5G services too.
  • It intends to free up spectrum in the 3.4GHz - 3.6GHz band - critical for the provision of wide-area coverage - for 5G by 2021, as it is currently used for satellite communications in the Asia-Pacific region by countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, IMDA said.
  • Two spectrum packages will be made available: (i) A 100MHz lot of 3.5GHz airwaves (ii) A 50MHz lot of 3.5GHz airwaves. Each package will come with 800MHz of millimetre wave band spectrum, IMDA said, which would provide 5G coverage that is more localised to a specific site or building.
  • The base price for the 3.5GHz is yet to be decided, but IMDA said it is considering taking reference from international benchmarks of base and final bid prices for similar bands auctioned globally between 2017 and 2019.
  • Successful spectrum rights holders will be required to provide 5G standalone networks - meaning these are not piggy-backing on existing mobile networks - with more than 50 per cent coverage within 24 months from the commencement of the 3.5GHz spectrum right. They must use the mmWave spectrum within 12 months from given the airwaves.
  • IMDA is issuing a Call-For-Proposal instead of an auction to assign the 5G spectrum. Besides offer price, it will also evaluate a bidder’s quality of network design and resilience and financial capability, the regulator said. The target is to announce the consultation results and Call-For-Proposal by the end of this year. 

“IMDA’s vision is for Singapore to be a global 5G front-runner for innovation in secure and resilient 5G applications and services,” it said. 

Local telco StarHub said it is looking forward to IMDA's 5G spectrum allocation and is upgrading its network to be ready for 5G. 

"We are broadcasting 'live' 5G signals at our headquarters to facilitate ongoing trials and industry engagement with partners," said StarHub chief technology officer Chong Siew Loong. "We will provide IMDA with further comments on the consultation paper in due time."

A Singtel spokesperson had similar sentiment, saying it had actively trialled 5G in designated areas around the country and will review the consultation paper carefully. It will provide its feedback within the required time frame. 

Singtel and Ericsson had previously said drone and autonomous vehicle trials were to be conducted over a pilot 5G network by the end of 2018.

M1 also said that the telco is committed to working closely with the regulator and industry partners to maximise the benefits of 5G technology. It has embarked on early 5G trials and will "continue to evaluate all possible options for the proposed 5G network rollout", said M1's director of corporate communications Ivan Lim.

The public consultation will close at noon on Jun 19, and more details can be found on IMDA’s website.

Source: CNA/mn