Is Singapore 5G ready?
Information & Communications Technology and Media | 01 Jun 2023
One of Singapore’s key objectives in becoming 5G-ready was to ensure that half of the nation can fully experience the capabilities of 5G networks by the end of 2022, and the lion city is well on track to offer nationwide 5G coverage by 2025. This encompasses not only the deployment of a comprehensive 5G network but also the utilisation of the various benefits that 5G technology brings. Singtel, StarHub, and M1, in a joint venture, have been granted the responsibility of operating 5G networks throughout the country. As of today, 5G coverage offered by Singtel has surpassed 95 percent, with the other telcos following suit.
Mobile data service revenue in Singapore is also expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2 percent from 2022 to 2027. This growth is driven by the rising consumption of mobile data services and the increasing adoption of higher average revenue per unit 5G subscriptions as 5G services become more widely available. As we delve into Singapore riding the 5G wave, an important question arises: Is Singapore truly ready for the advent of 5G?
READ MORE: What is 5G?
Why does Singapore need 5G?
According to Mr Tan Kiat How, the then-Chief Executive of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), “the on-going COVID-19 situation underscores the criticality of a robust digital infrastructure and the importance of timely investments to meet our national connectivity needs. Beyond a connectivity infrastructure, we believe that 5G networks will spur innovation, create exciting business, and job opportunities, and position Singapore as a leading digital economy.”
As Singapore strives for international economic success in the post-pandemic era, it must not only rely on reliable and affordable cloud-enabled networks for 5G-driven enterprises but also embrace the potential benefits that 6G technology offers.
By 2030, 6G services are expected to be available and will provide speeds up to 100 times faster than 5G, conceivably blurring the lines between digital and physical worlds with holographic telepresence, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Despite being in the early stages of development, 6G aims to revolutionise connectivity with faster speeds, ultra-low latency, and support for numerous devices.
Singapore’s commitment to technological advancement positions the nation at the forefront, ready to harness the benefits of 6G and drive industry transformation, enhanced experiences, and innovation.
How is Singapore building its 5G capabilities?
Singapore is actively building its 5G capabilities, aiming to become a global hub for research and development in this field. IMDA has partnered with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to establish the first 6G lab in Southeast Asia.
The lab will focus on advancing future communication technologies, including 5G and 6G, and exploring applications like holographic communications and intelligent sensing for autonomous vehicles and drones. This initiative is part of Singapore’s commitment to technological advancement and positioning itself as a leader in wireless communication.
Secure and resilient 5G networks
According to Dr. Janil Puthucheary, the Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, a secure and resilient digital infrastructure fosters confidence and trust among competitors, collaborators, and partners, enabling more effective engagement. He further highlighted the significance of cybersecurity in the cloud, especially as businesses increasingly leverage cloud platforms.
To address concerns in this area, Singapore introduced a multi-tier cloud security standard in 2013. This standard provides clarity on security levels offered by various cloud service providers, offering businesses a framework for ensuring adequate protection of their hosted data and systems. The aim is to create an easily understandable and interoperable governance framework.
READ MORE: Understanding the basics of cybersecurity
A 5G ecosystem will benefit enterprises and consumers
Singapore has been conducting 5G trials in its economic sectors to speed up innovation. IMDA and the National Research Foundation had set aside $40 million to support 5G trials in various strategic sectors. The trials pave the way for a robust 5G infrastructure, which will support a vibrant innovation ecosystem to drive business transformation.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) planned to collaborate with StarHub for a two-year trial leveraging IoT and 5G. NUS aims to enhance campus management through live tests with drones, patrol robots, and immersive classroom experiences. Potential applications include building facade inspections, waste management, and security, to which the use of drone technology and AI can reduce inspection time by 70 percent.
IMDA, in partnership with Infinite Studios and D.ink, is creating a ground-breaking 5G project in Marina Bay. This outdoor AR setup will offer a cinematic experience, utilizing 5G’s bandwidth and computational power. It follows the success of the National Gallery’s AR art exhibition. Additionally, Fort Siloso in Sentosa will feature a 5G-enabled extended reality (XR) experience. These initiatives demonstrate Singapore’s commitment to pushing technological boundaries and providing unique immersive experiences.
Singapore is expanding standalone 5G coverage to its seaport by mid-2025 to drive 5G rollout and adoption in maritime operations via the establishment of the 5G@Sea testbed. The expanded 5G coverage will enable pilots to control ships from onshore centres, improving service efficiency and safety. The initiative also includes drone-based shore-to-ship delivery, eliminating the need for vessels to dock for urgent inspections and repairs. Singapore’s 5G network in the maritime sector will enhance productivity and reduce downtime, transforming traditional harbour pilot roles and revolutionising operations.
Preparing a pipeline of talent
Singapore’s tech industry is committed to hiring and training professionals to support 5G network deployment. The government aims to boost the tech talent pool by leveraging the 5G Academy, a collaborative initiative established in 2020. This public-private partnership has successfully trained approximately 10,000 professionals, exceeding its initial target of 5,000, in key areas such as 5G network architecture and software development.
To further foster information, communications and technology (ICT) manpower, IMDA is collaborating with the industry with a focus on new job roles in the 5G ecosystem such as 5G network engineering and application development. The Skills Framework for ICT professionals has been updated with 5G competencies, and through the Tech Skills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative, companies in Singapore can enhance their employees’ expertise in 5G and related areas.
A new economic reality
Singapore, a beacon of progress and prosperity, embraces the limitless future with unwavering dedication. Recognising the profound impact of 5G as a catalyst for innovation, IMDA envisions a thriving and dynamic 5G ecosystem.
This visionary approach unlocks exciting new applications and drives transformative change, delivering unparalleled value across industries. Singapore’s commitment extends beyond 5G, as it pioneers the path to 6G.
This transformative leap fuels job creation and empowers individuals to shape the future. By nurturing innovation and strategically investing in digital infrastructure, Singapore is not only preparing but spearheads the connectivity revolution.
With the development of a new national blueprint, known as the Digital Connectivity Blueprint, Singapore is charting its path towards 6G mobile technology and a 10Gbps home broadband network. This comprehensive plan not only aims to drive new growth opportunities but also enhance digital trade and data flow through the nation, attracting more investments.
In addition, significant investments in 6G research and development are underway through the Future Communications Research and Development Programme. By prioritising technological advancement, Singapore aims to unlock a multitude of prospects while strategically positioning itself as a leader in the digital race, where opportunities are aplenty for the nation’s growth and innovation.
This article was originally contributed by Moses Ku, Senior Manager (Engagement), IndSights Research in 2021, and has been revised and updated to reflect recent developments in 5G.