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Singapore’s IMDA Makes New 5G Spectrum Bands Available to All Mobile Network Operators

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Airwaves for 3G mobile services in Singapore will be going on the auction block under a proposal by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to boost 5G services. The auction, slated to take place towards the end of this year, comes as rights to the 2.1 GHz spectrum band currently used for 3G services will expire at the end of this year.

Through airwave reframing, sector regulator the IMDA aims to enhance the propagation of 5G signals island-wide to support the mass rollout of next-generation services such as mobile gaming and driverless vehicle navigation.

Additionally, the 2.1 GHz band will facilitate 5G coverage in buildings and underground, as the existing infrastructure in these areas can be repurposed for 5G use.

The IMDA is seeking views from the public and the industry on its proposal in a newly launched consultation, which closes at noon on August 16. It is also seeking views on the potential new uses of the 2.1 GHz band, which is increasingly supporting 5G deployments globally such as in Germany, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Even so, some of the 2.1 GHz spectrum bands will be set aside to allow 3G services to continue in Singapore.

There are approximately 700,000 3G subscriptions as of April this year. This translates to close to 8 per cent of all mobile subscriptions with more than 1.5 million handsets or devices still depend on 3G networks today. Affected users include seniors, foreign workers, transport operators, and healthcare organisations, said the IMDA, noting that many inbound roaming tourists and business travellers are still on 3G handsets.

Advanced 5G technologies promise surfing speeds 20 times faster than what 4G networks offer and the ability to connect 1,000 times as many devices. For instance, a 3GB movie clip – which translates to about an hour’s duration in high-definition format – will take around 40 seconds to download on average over a 5G network. Advanced 5G technologies are also better able to support mission-critical applications, such as driverless car navigation and remote surgery requiring a constant connection without lag.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Singapore government plans to build strong partnerships with industry to build sustainable 5G business use cases, and develop strong manpower capabilities to utilise 5G technologies, creating a successful 5G ecosystem in Singapore.

In June 2019, IMDA partnered with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and a private corporation to trial the use of 5G in facilitating safer and more efficient maritime operations. The trials validated the value of 5G. Its higher bandwidth, lower latency and enhanced reliability helped to enhance the productivity and efficiency of port operations and workers.

Also, the IMDA launched a 5G Living Lab@PIXEL to facilitate industry efforts to develop new 5G solutions and build up technical capabilities. Businesses, including SMEs, will be able to develop and test 5G-enabled devices and applications, as well as gain insights from sharing sessions and masterclasses with PIXEL’s broader ecosystem of innovative infocomm media start-ups.

While there is potential for many different use cases, as a start, the facility focused on augmented reality/virtual reality which is critical for in-person experiences. This is especially relevant today, given the increasing need for remote events and activities to support sectors such as retail and construction that have been affected by COVID-19.

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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