Singapore has underscored the need for 5G networks to remain secured and resilient, as well as for use cases to be developed and tested so the ecosystem can thrive. Its calls come as local telco Singtel announces new customer trials that run on its standalone 5G network, including in logistics and manufacturing.
Designed fundamentally different from previous generations, which were primarily based on hardware, 5G systems are software-driven. This architectural change could create new potential security vulnerabilities, according to Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo.
"As we expand the adoption of 5G, we must be mindful of the potential for new cyber risks," Teo said Monday in a speech broadcast during Singtel's virtual event, which featured new trials the telco was running on its 5G standalone network.
"Digital infrastructure must be secure. Consumers and businesses must have confidence that our 5G networks are resilient," she said. "It is important to uphold Singapore's reputation as a trusted player, here and abroad."
She noted that Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has stressed the importance of "security and resilience" as regulatory priorities. The industry regulator last year announced a 5G security testbed initiative, in which IMDA worked alongside telcos to boost their security posture and capabilities, Teo said.
She added that local telcos have "committed to adopt" a zero-trust security posture, which means they would have to verify all activities before they are trusted. Carriers would also have to implement constant monitoring and be vigilant for suspicious activities, the minister said.
She suggested telcos could further tap global market opportunities if they are able to differentiate their services in the 5G cybersecurity segment.
In particular, they would need to play their role in driving the local ecosystem and adoption of 5G, she said.
"Imagine an app store with no apps for us to download. Likewise, 5G infrastructure itself cannot deliver magic without actual use cases being developed, tested, and scaled up," Teo said.
Singtel Group CEO Yuen Kuan Moon pointed to 5G's potential to "transform" business models and drive the development of new products and services, including stimulating new growth to "reinvigorate" the Singapore telco's own core business.
Yuen said the combination of IoT and AI would provide for more intelligent connectivity, delivering new value proposition for organisations and consumers.
For enterprises, in particular, he touted Singtel's MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) platform as the vehicle to develop new applications such as smart city planning and 5G-powered e-racing. Singtel today announced it was working with virtual car racing operator, Formula Square, to test 5G-powered experience of racing remote-controlled cars at Sentosa.
Use cases that tap key 5G benefits
Asked if the telco was focusing on key verticals in running 5G pilots, Singtel's vice president for 5G enterprise and cloud Dennis Wong said potential use cases cut across multiple sectors including manufacturing, logistics, financial services, and retail.
Some functionalities and applications saw quicker adoption than others, such as drones and autonomous vehicles, where regulatory issues were still evolving and the ecosystems were less matured. These would require more time before 5G adoption would pick up, Wong said in an interview with ZDNet.
Some applications such as video analytics were seeing high interest as these were easily realised and had different uses cases that could be deployed across multiple verticals, he noted. The technology, for instance, could be used in manufacturing to identify defects or in transport for security. Video streaming also could be used in the medical field.
In exploring potential use cases, he said the key benefits of 5G were its ability to deliver low latency, high data speeds, and enhanced security. These then would help organisations willing to adopt the technology to identify applications they could develop and work with Singtel and its partners to do so.
Asked how many trials Singtel currently was running with its enterprise customers, Wong said the number was in "multiple tens". He added that several others were rejected for various reasons, including a lack of value proposition and an immature ecosystem.
He said the telco's "5G network in a box" service, called Genie, also was seeing high interest, with enterprise customers requesting to extend their loan period beyond the standard two weeks. While asked, he declined to say how many of these boxes currently were in circulation.
Launched in April, Genie was touted to provide a 5G network environment anywhere that had an available power source, enabling enterprises to deploy and test their applications. Tucked inside a suitcase-sized container, Genie comprised a 5G network control kit as well as a standing mount with 5G radio antenna.
The box was built to work with the telco's MEC infrastructure, which was heavily pitched today as the platform on which applications were optimised for 5G's key features, including low latency, high bandwidth, and real-time compute capabilities at the edge, such as data analytics and AI processing.
Singtel in recent months also inked partners including Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS), so enterprise customers of these hyperscalers could run their applications on the telco's MEC and 5G infrastructures, Wong said.
Yuen added that 5G and AI, along with data analytics, would be key drivers in Singapore's digital economy post-pandemic, especially as COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation across all industries. Powered by 5G, the ability to collect and analyse data in large volumes and in real time would further speed up the adoption of AI and transform businesses, he said.
He added that this would play out over the next one to two years as the industry begins to embrace digitalisation and tap AI and 5G as the foundation of their digital transformation.
According to Teo, Singapore was on track to have nationwide outdoor coverage on 5G standalone networks by 2025, with half of the island to have coverage by end-2022.
Singtel's Singapore CEO for consumer Anna Yip said the telco currently has more than 180,000 5G subscribers.