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Singapore’s IMDA Releases 5G Design Principles

In the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, approaches that draw upon the principles pioneered by creatives such as design thinking have surged in popularity. As the architects of Singapore’s digital future, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) often must tackle head-on the challenges that come with successfully developing and deploying emerging, frontier technologies across various sectors. With the ongoing nationwide rollout of 5G, the agency is employing design principles to bring the benefits of 5G to individuals and enterprises.

In the realm of design, there are two enduring schools of thought: the first being a top-down approach, driven by an audacious vision, and the consumer-centric, bottom-up approach that people are more familiar with. While neither are mutually exclusive, the vision-first approach propelled IMDA to initially explore the possibilities of 5G. After all, a world-class digital infrastructure is the backbone of the Digital Economy. Because of this, Singapore has invested heavily in ensuring that our digital infrastructure is fit-for-purpose and future-proof to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow.

With its reliability, low latency and ultrafast speeds, the IMDA quickly identified 5G as the key enabler for Singapore’s growing digital economy. To lay the foundations for the country’s 5G future, in 2019 IMDA set aside S$40 million with the aim to develop a vibrant and innovative ecosystem that will facilitate the deployment of 5G networks to tap into the technology’s fullest potential.

The agency has since identified six strategic clusters which they believe will generate the most value for Singapore and have the greatest exportability potential for the global ecosystem—namely:

  • maritime operations
  • urban mobility
  • smart estates
  • Industry 4.0
  • government applications
  • consumer applications

With a firm vision of a 5G future in place, the agency is now evaluating the feasibility of this future by embarking on seven trials across diverse use cases. Of course, the 5G’s benefits are not just limited to the use cases currently being explored. To ultimately ensure value across the whole ecosystem, it is crucial to make the technology accessible to everyone in Singapore. Accordingly, the IMDA is forging ahead with the nationwide rollout of 5G Standalone networks—which is set to provide coverage for half of the country by the end-2022 and be completed by 2025.

With the continuing nationwide rollout, the agency is lowering the barriers to entry for 5G through its new S$30 million funding. By encouraging companies, especially SMEs, to adopt the technology and supporting 5G solution providers in turn, IMDA hopes to kickstart a thriving 5G ecosystem—where individuals, workers and businesses can all reap its value.

Given the complexity and scale of all these efforts, it is only through the agency’s top-down approach inspired by design principles that a smooth deployment has so far been possible. Beyond 5G, more emerging technologies are on the horizon for Singapore as its digital economy matures—and for now, there is an existing blueprint for development and rollout to follow.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, as part of the efforts to build a pipeline of the 5G-ready workforce across the telecom sector and the wider 5G ecosystem, IMDA is partnering with Institutes of Higher Learning and the industry to offer 5G-related training programmes. This will support new job opportunities such as Network Engineers, Radio Frequency Engineers, and develop new skills such as Network Security and Network Slicing.

IMDA is also working closely with the mobile network operators through the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme to develop tailored in-house training plans to support their 5G talent development and deployment. In addition, IMDA is partnering with training providers to provide new 5G courses, such as in 5G Network Architecture and Network Function Virtualisation.


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