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Singapore telcos get more 5G spectrum

Singtel, M1-StarHub and TPG will be getting 2.1GHz spectrum to support the growth of 5G services in the city-state

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has made more spectrum available to local 5G mobile network operators to support the growth of 5G services.

Announcing the results of the 2.1GHz spectrum rights auction, the industry regulator said Singtel and the M1-StarHub consortium will be able to use the new spectrum to enhance coverage and capacity of their existing 5G standalone networks.

Both Singtel and the M1-StarHub consortium, which will get 25MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum each, are on track to establish two nationwide networks with full-fledged 5G standalone capabilities. They are expected to provide at least 50% coverage by the end of 2022 followed by nationwide coverage by the end of 2025.

TPG, Singapore’s fourth mobile network operator, will get 10MHz of 2.1GHz spectrum. It will be required to deploy a new 5G network in the same manner and time frame as Singtel and the M1-StarHub consortium’s deployment conditions.

It must also roll out a 5G standalone network with at least 50% coverage within two years and nationwide coverage within five years, from the commencement of its 2.1GHz spectrum rights.

The allocation of 2.1GHz spectrum comes after the first tranche of 3.5GHz spectrum issued in June 2020 for the deployment of 5G nationwide networks. It marks a key milestone in Singapore’s efforts to build a world-class, secure and resilient infrastructure, putting the city-state in a stronger position to grow its 5G ecosystem.

In a statement, M1 said the addition of the 2.1GHz spectrum to its 5G portfolio will boost wide-area coverage for 5G in Singapore, while enabling the flexibility of 3G services to continue.

“Leveraging both 2.1GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum provides greater value of 5G to consumers and enterprises and is very much a part of M1’s journey to support Singapore’s vibrant 5G ecosystem and its smart nation ambitions,” it added.

Anna Yip, CEO of Singtel’s consumer business in Singapore, said the 2.1GHz spectrum will help “accelerate the roll-out of our 5G standalone network and further strengthen our 5G leadership”.

In the enterprise space, Singtel and StarHub are both counting on their investments in multi-access edge computing (MEC) to support business uses of 5G connectivity.

Singtel, for example, has teamed up with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services to make hybrid cloud offerings from the two hyperscalers available on its MEC platform while StarHub is using HPE’s MEC platform to support enterprises in running artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics workloads at the edge, among other applications.

“The ability to interpret and act on data in real-time has become a crucial pillar for enterprises to compete strongly in the digital-first world. Through our collaboration with HPE, we are introducing a single entry point for enterprises to transform with 5G, no matter the stage of their digital journeys,” said Charlie Chan, chief of StarHub’s enterprise business group.

“With thousands of edge sites powering 5G mobile and fixed networks, we are taking the lead to bring compute, real-time AI and ML [machine learning] analytics, and cloud productivity experiences closer to where our customers need them, be it at their offices or remote sites,” he added.

Chan Kong Hoe, managing director of HPE Singapore, said edge services present a huge opportunity for telcos, with the transition from just providing connectivity to offering innovative edge cloud services.

“Service providers that capture this opportunity will drive greater revenues and will be able to compete successfully against global cloud providers who are targeting this space,” he added.

According to a recent global survey by EY, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred greater interest in 5G, with three-quarters of organisations expecting 5G to help them reinvent their processes in the next five years.

5G investments among organisations in Asia-Pacific are also pulling further ahead than the Americas and Europe, with 78% of organisations in the region currently investing or planning to invest within the next two to three years, compared with 71% of organisations in both the Americas and Europe.

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