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5G will be a public utility, says IMDA

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority is looking beyond access speeds in charting the deployment of 5G networks, which it has likened to a public utility

The Singapore government has likened 5G connectivity to a public utility that will support new applications and will benefit the economy, according to a top official at the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Speaking at the opening ceremony of ConnecTechAsia in Singapore, IMDA chief executive Tan Kiat How said that rather than use 5G for fixed wireless access as is the case in other jurisdictions, Singapore’s approach to 5G goes beyond how fast the new networks are or how soon the technology will be deployed.

“It is about how smartly we use the 5G networks to create value and deliver benefits to our businesses and people,” he said.

That means Singapore’s 5G networks will have to deliver more than just faster connectivity, said Tan. They will need to deliver next-generation network capabilities, such as network slicing, ultra-reliable low latency, support a large number of devices, and provide intelligence at the edge.

Such capabilities can only be delivered through standalone 5G networks, which the IMDA is calling for telcos to deploy in a public consultation document that was published in May 2019. Standalone 5G specifications are expected to be harmonised internationally in early 2020.

Current 5G deployments in many countries are based on non-standalone specifications, which support enhanced mobile broadband services by using large bandwidths and hardware improvements, but still rely on existing 4G networks for connectivity.

Such deployments are limited to higher speeds and will not support the full suite of 5G capabilities.

On the other hand, standalone 5G networks are independent networks and will offer more advanced capabilities to support internet of things applications, which are being rolled out by Singapore in a slew of smart city initiatives.

Tan said the IMDA will facilitate the roll-out of at least two 5G networks in Singapore that will ride on the 3.5GHz spectrum. “We expect more 5G networks with more spectrum availability in the coming years,” he added.

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