Singapore is seeking industry and public feedback on the regulatory framework it should put in place to facilitate the country's deployment of 5G network and services, which are targeted for rollout by 2020. It plans to allocate spectrum sufficient to support at least two nationwide networks as well as continue to waive spectrum fees for telcos to conduct technical and commercial 5G trials.
In seeking public consultation, Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said policies should ensure both consumers and businesses are able to benefit from 5G technology, and that networks are designed to be secured and resilient. It is also looking to facilitate the "efficient allocation" of spectrum, including having plans to enable the deployment of at least two 5G networks across the island-state, the industry regulator said in a statement Tuesday.
In addition, it welcomed feedback on the baseline regulatory requirements needed to guide mobile network operators and on various components critical to fuelling the 5G ecosystem including use cases, skillsets and manpower deployment, and other areas of government support.
IMDA said it has plans to set aside 3.5GHz, 26GHz, and 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) bands in the initial spectrum allocation and assign the 5G spectrum through a call-for-proposal regulatory process. This is slated to take place later this year, it said.
The regulator said it supports the adoption of "standalone" technical specifications for Singapore's 5G deployment, even though several countries today based their implementation on "non-standalone" specifications. It explained that the latter operated on existing 4G networks for connectivity and such deployments were limited to higher speeds and unable to support the full suite of 5G capabilities. It added that standalone specifications were expected to be globally harmonised by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) by early-2020. 3GPP is the international standards organisation responsible for developing protocols for mobile telephony, including current 3G and 4G standards in use today.
Operators seeking spectrum resources would have to submit a proposal detailing their 5G deployment plans, IMDA said, adding that applicants would be assessed based on their ability to meet baseline regulatory requirements and their financial capabilities needed to support their proposed 5G network rollout. These would include network design, performance, and resilience, and the provision of wholesale services to other mobile operators.
Telcos, for instance, would be required to provide standalone 5G networks with more than 50 percent coverage within two years from the start of the 3.5GHz spectrum licensing. They also would have to use the mmWave spectrum within a year from the commencement of the spectrum right.
To further drive the development of innovative 5G use cases and engineering resources, IMDA said spectrum usage would remain free for operators to conduct technical and commercial 5G trials. The regulator announced in May 2017 that telcos would be able to test 5G services for free over two years, until December 2019, as part of efforts to spur the industry and establish uses cases on the next-generation communications network. It then estimated that this would yield telcos savings of S$11,200 a year.
IMDA also explained that while spectrum in the 3.5GHz band is critical to facilitating wide-area 5G coverage, it is currently only widely used in Asia-Pacific for satellite communications, including in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The Singapore industry regulator said it is working with neighbouring countries to free up the spectrum band for 5G deployments, and is targeting for spectrum between the 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz band to be available for 5G by 2021.
It also could open up other spectrum bands progressively from 2025, when the global market would be more ready for cost-efficient 5G deployments, it said. The regulator further suggested a spectrum licensing period of between 12 and 15 years should be sufficient in providing investment certainty.
IMDA believes the value of 5G in Singapore would focus on enabling industry players and businesses to develop applications and services across various key verticals, including healthcare, transport, and manufacturing.
IMDA's chief executive Tan Kiat How said insights from the public consultation would guide the regulator on its approach and industry efforts and help ensure Singapore's connectivity infrastructure could support its ambitions to be a digital economy.
Submissions for the public consultation will close June 19.
According to Forrester, China is expected to lead global markets in 5G where the country's investments in telecommunications account for 57 percent of its overall tech expenditure. It has outspent the US by US$24 billion in 5G since 2015, with its three major telcos unveiling plans to launch commercial 5G networks by next year, the research firm said in a recent report.
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