StarHub to turn on 5G experience for some customers

Available as an early trial access, the Singapore telco's 5G connectivity will be automatically pushed to customers on its Mobile+ and Biz+ plans across 53% of the island's populated areas, where its 5G signals currently reach.

StarHub customers will be able to experience 5G-powered services from August 18, when the Singapore telco turns on the next-generation mobile network across some areas of the island. Available as an early trial access, the service will be offered free and turned on automatically for customers. 

Customers on StarHub's Mobile+ and Biz+ service plans, and who have a compatible device, would be able to experience "some early 5G benefits", the telco said in a statement Monday. Its 5G signals currently cover 53% of Singapore's populated areas and will reach 70% coverage next month, including residential estates such as Ang Mo Kio and Tampines as well as the Central Business District and local shopping strip, Orchard. 

Full commercial launch of 5G standalone services were slated for next year, according to StarHub. The early trial access would run until February 16 next year.

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The telco, alongside co-bidder M1, as well as Singtel in April secured licences to deploy nationwide 5G networks in Singapore, while TPG Telecom failed in its bid to do so, but was awarded frequency spectrum in the millimetre wave band, enabling it to roll out localised 5G networks. The Australian telco, and other mobile virtual network operators, would have to negotiate wholesale service agreements with Singtel or M1 and StarHub to tap their respective 5G networks, in order to offer retail 5G services to end-users.  

StarHub's announcement Monday meant its customers would be amongst the first to experience 5G connectivity, if they owned compatible devices currently available in the market including Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.

The telco, which was working with Nokia as its 5G technology partner, said its 5G signals currently were live on 2100MHz spectrum on a non-standalone architecture. 

StarHub said its standalone 5G network, running on 3.5GHz spectrum, would be up and running by mid-2021. Its chief of consumer business Johan Buse said: "Just as how steam, electricity, and electronics have enriched our lives, the technology revolution of our era -- 5G -- will usher in unprecedented speed, simplicity, and instantaneity, changing the way we work, play, browse, game, watch, and create."

Industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said in its statement Monday that it welcomed mobile operators to tap their existing 4G networks to deploy 5G non-standalone networks to facilitate customer trials. 

With the country's two nationwide 5G standalone networks scheduled to be operational by 2025, IMDA noted that mobile operators here had expressed interest in using non-standalone networks as a short-term and interim, while they rolled out their standalone networks.  

"Riding on existing 4G networks, the 5G NSA networks will enable consumers to enjoy some 5G benefits such as faster mobile speeds on 5G-enabled devices," IMDA said, noting that operators -- upon obtaining its approval -- would be permitted to run market trials and offer some early commercial 5G services to consumers. 

It added that it would work with the operators to develop a regulator framework to ensure "a smooth transition" from non-standalone to standalone 5G networks.

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