SINGAPORE: Local telco M1 on Friday (Aug 19) announced that it will move forward with its Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) rollout following successful trials, as well as readying the commercial launch of a separate network that caters for Internet of Things (IoT) deployment.
The two projects are to cost M1 S$50 million in initial capital expenditure, Mr Patrick Scodeller, Chief Operating Officer at M1, said at a press briefing, but declined to share more in terms of the timeframe of investment or how much further investment there will be. The company also did not give a breakdown of the investment figures for the respective projects.
M1, along with networking partner Nokia, will progressively roll out the latter’s small cell devices to about 500 high-traffic hotspots across Singapore to complement its existing 4G mobile network, Mr Scodeller said.
These new deployment sites include MRT and LRT stations, malls and popular outdoor areas such as Marina Bay and Clarke Quay, in addition to those already deployed at Paragon mall, Orchard and Raffles Place MRT stations and various locations in Jurong East as part of its trials, he added.
Tapping on LTE-Wi-Fi aggregation technology, the telco hopes to deliver peak download speeds of more than 1Gbps by 2017, according to a separate press release by the company.
The telco had participated in the HetNet trials at Jurong Lake District conducted by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which found that 90 per cent of users enjoyed a better mobile experience with faster download and upload speeds.
When asked to share more findings from the trial, in terms of the user experience in switching from the cellular network to Wi-Fi, or other network technologies, M1 Chief Innovation Officer Alex Tan said that is “evident” that satisfaction levels are “sufficient” for the company to invest the amount it is doing to continue with its HetNet deployment.
Mr Scodeller also pointed out that the small cell deployment will form the backbone of the telco’s future 5G network.
IOT NETWORK TO BE READY BY JUNE 2017
As for its investment in IoT, M1 and Nokia announced they will be one of the first worldwide to launch a commercial NB-IoT network when it becomes operational by next June.
According to both parties, the standards for this particular technology was only finalised by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a standards development body, in June this year. Among its features, the technology has low bandwidth, low power consumption and robust indoor penetration, and compatible sensor devices are cheaper to produce and last longer as a result, they said.
Explaining the difference with existing mobile networks, Mr Tan said the NB-IoT provides an alternative for companies in verticals such as logistics and fleet management, which can range from cars and buses to vessels and ferries.
For example, fleet management currently involves using a SIM card that is dependent on the cellular network, but this, Mr Tan explained, is overkill. “You don’t need a heavy pipe to transmit sensor data that requires low through-put,” he said.
Citing another case for possible use, the executive highlighted that M1 is currently in talks with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to explore using such sensors for tracking vessels, containers at ports as well as offshore sensors to evaluate the salinity of the seawater or detect air quality in case of haze.
“The MPA is pleased to work with M1 to promote greater connectivity and productivity in the maritime sector, particularly with growing interest in smart ships and ports, and NB-IoT will enable MPA and its partners to explore the deployment of a network of offshore sensors to augment the situational awareness of our port waters,” said Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA, in the press release.
That said, the NB-IoT network has its limitations. For heavy data transmission, such as sending through mobile camera footage, cellular networks are still the way to go, the M1 Chief Innovation Officer said.
M1 is not the only telco in Singapore looking to bring the technology to the market. Singtel in February said it would trial NB-IoT in the second half of 2016 in partnership with Ericsson. This is to test technologies to prepare Singtel’s current 4G LTE network to support the expected rapid growth of connected devices as Singapore targets 5G availability in 2020.