Is Singapore 5G ready?

Information & Communications Technology and Media  |  05 Mar 2021

One of the targets for a 5G Singapore is for half of the nation to be enjoying full-fledged 5G capabilities by end 2022. Singaporeans and enterprises will be able to enjoy the many benefits 5G will bring. The question is: are we ready?

READ ALSO: The definition and history of 5G 

According to Channel News Asia, Singapore is on track to offer nationwide 5G coverage by 2025. We also saw that Singtel, and StarHub and M1 in a joint venture, were awarded to operate 5G networks in Singapore. “With this, it sets the stage for the development of a world-class, resilient and secure 5G infrastructure which will be the backbone of Singapore’s digital economy,” said Mr. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information (MCI).

 

Why does Singapore need 5G?

Photo of a hand holding a miniature internet city

Mr. Tan Kiat How, then-Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), said, “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.”

Singapore will want to further her international economic success by banking on how reliable, affordable, cloud-enabled networks will be essential to launch 5G enterprises. Aside from the generic benefits of 5G, we will specifically look at how Singapore will benefit from 5G, including:

  • Smart citizens, who work, play, and connect from anywhere. Arguably, the COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerated the culture of remote working.
  • Smart commerce, where supply chains, ports, offices, and retail outlets are going to be connected seamlessly. Once again, we can observe this shift during lockdowns, where people turn to online shopping to get their goods and necessities. This trend looks like it is here to stay.
  • Smart factories, where edge computing and AI will drive economic growth, jobs, and safety.
  • Smart streets, where IoT sensors and big data will enable new and improved forms of mobility, services, and environmental monitoring.

We went through the definition of 5G and its uses, in our previous article.

Samsung’s Edward Choi had this to say, “Experience innovation requires more than just devices and new features. It’s (a) complete integration of hardware, software and services, leveraging cloud, edge computing, AI and other technology.”

 

Getting Singapore 5G-ready – building capabilities

Nationwide standalone (SA) networks will have the full suite of 5G capabilities
Full-fledged 5G capabilities, such as network slicing, ultra-reliable and low latency, and massive machine communications will be delivered by SA networks. Businesses and consumers will benefit from the faster network speeds which will allow for wider applications use.
 

Secure and resilient 5G networks

To provide better protection against 5G network cyber threats, IMDA will establish a 5G Security Testbed Programme for technology exploration. This will be done in partnership with network operators, where their choices of vendors are subject to the commitments made in the 5G call-for-proposal and must satisfy IMDA’s resilience and cybersecurity requirements.
 

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 strategic sectors such as maritime, aviation, smart estates, consumer applications, Industry 4.0, and Government applications. These trails pave the way for a robust 5G infrastructure, which will support a vibrant innovation ecosystem to drive business transformation.

One such trial was announced in May 2020 by a consortium comprising IMDA, IBM, Samsung and M1, to test the use of 5G in manufacturing and other industries. The consortium’s Industry 4.0 studio has been built, with advances in areas of 5G such as visual recognition, augmented reality, acoustics and analytics.

IMDA also said that it will launch a facility in one-north in September, to facilitate industry efforts to develop new 5G solutions and build up technical capabilities. Known as the 5G Living Lab@PIXEL, it will focus on augmented or virtual reality, which is “critical for in-person experiences”. With faster speeds and new mobile experiences, even the man-on-the-street can look forward to exciting applications such as AR/VR learning and cloud gaming.
 

Preparing a pipeline of talent

“Part of the first wave of 5G opportunities is in the creation of jobs to support the network infrastructure,” said Mr. S. Iswaran at ConnecTechAsia 2020. “We expect the demand for 5G professionals to continue to grow as the 5G rollout gathers momentum and more enterprises participate in the ecosystem.”

To make sure Singapore has a pipeline of talent who are work-ready, IMDA will appoint a group comprising the National University of Singapore and Singapore Polytechnic, as the 5G and telecoms programme managers. The partner institutes of higher learning will offer 5G-related training programmes to “nurture a pipeline of 5G-ready workforce” across the telecom sector. The mobile network operators will further support the 5G talent development and deployment by establishing in-house trainings.

IMDA will also partner the industry to nurture a pool of ICT manpower. New job roles in the 5G ecosystem include network engineering and application development. IMDA’s Skills Framework for ICT professionals has been updated with 5G competencies for job roles and IMDA is identifying 5G training or courses for interested applicants.

Singapore’s mobile network operators will start hiring and training telecoms professionals to support the deployment of their 5G networks and a total of 5,000 5G professionals are expected to be trained over the next three years. 5G workforce transformation committees will help identify the talents needed by the Telcos in diverse functions such as 5G networking, cyber security and solutions engineering.

 

A new economic reality

Photo of a back view of a young businessman on rooftop with business chart hologram

Mr. Tan Kiat How pointed out how Singapore’s fiberoptic investments have made a dramatic difference in Singapore’s ability to persevere life, work, and education during COVID-19. “The ongoing COVID-19 situation has reinforced the importance of a resilient and robust digitally connected infrastructure,” he said. “It enables a smooth functioning of essential services, like healthcare and banking. It enables businesses and workers to continue essential commercial functions from home. And it helped all segments of our community to remain connected with one another.”

While many 5G opportunities are still being dreamt up in Singapore, around the world some possibilities already exist. Some 5G areas include enhanced visual recognition, acoustic insights and augmented reality systems built on AI-and-edge-enabled platforms. These operations would be nigh impossible to execute, without the cloud-supported, ultra-reliable and low latency 5G networks.

“We believe 5G is an important innovation infrastructure for the state economy,” IMDA’s Tan said. “A vibrant, dynamic, 5G innovation ecosystem drives business transformation and enables exciting new applications. This will unlock new value for industries, as well as create new jobs for workers.”

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