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Singapore aims to be global node for 5G innovation

The government will spend S$40m to develop 5G technology use cases in key sectors such as maritime and manufacturing with an eye on exporting Singapore's expertise to global markets

Singapore has earmarked S$40m (US$29.5m) to develop 5G use cases and technology trials in a bid to position itself as a global node for 5G innovation.

These include setting up 5G test-beds in key areas such as urban mobility, smart estates, Industry 4.0, consumer applications, and government.

The funds will come from the National Research Foundation and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), which identified the use cases based on their potential to be exported globally.

“We want to be at the forefront in exporting innovative and impactful use cases to be shared across the region and beyond,” said S Iswaran, Singapore’s minister for communications and information, at Innovfest Unbound 2019.

Starting with consumer applications, the IMDA will set up a 5G lab, dubbed Pixel, at the One North technology and media hub. When ready by mid-2020, the lab will let companies experiment with 5G use cases in gaming and immersive technology.

With industry expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of 5G, the IMDA is also focusing its 5G development efforts on areas like maritime operations and shipping where Singapore has had a competitive advantage.

In March 2019, the IMDA and Singapore port operator PSA issued a technology call to develop 5G trials at the Pasir Panjang Terminal located in southwest Singapore.

Singtel and M1 have been awarded the contract to conduct 5G trials at the port, Iswaran revealed.

Besides providing 5G connectivity, the two local telcos will test the use of automation and autonomous vehicles to improve port operations. The 18-month trial will be conducted from the third quarter of 2019.

As the world’s busiest transhipment port, Singapore handled over 36 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers in 2018. To accommodate the future growth of containers handled in Singapore, the Tuas Port is being developed and will open in phases from 2021.

The mega port is expected to incorporate new technologies and innovative solutions to optimise its operations and enable it to handle up to 65 million TEUs a year.

“As Singapore expands its port and maritime operations, 5G will grow increasingly important in its role in maximising operational efficiencies and future-proofing the industry,” said Bill Chang, CEO of Singtel’s enterprise group.

“The 5G trials will enable PSA to load and unload more containers and turn around ships faster. They will also be a test-bed to integrate innovative solutions at the future Tuas Port, and reinforce Singapore’s position as a leading transhipment and container hub,” Chang added.

Manufacturing, which contributes about a fifth of Singapore’s GDP, is another area where 5G’s potential can be realised.

To that, Singtel, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) and JTC have inked a memorandum of understanding to deploy 5G at the ARTC in the Jurong Innovation District.

At the ARTC, Iswaran said businesses can explore how 5G can be combined with the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to track automated guided vehicles on factory floors, for example.

“These are exciting developments with much promise, but this is only the beginning as we forge ahead in the digital economy by leveraging the potential of 5G which is a key part of our digital infrastructure,” he added.

In a public consultation launched in May 2019, the IMDA proposed that mobile operators deploy standalone 5G networks which support the full suite of 5G capabilities, including ultra-low latency and high-density connections to support IoT applications.

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