IMDA backs standalone 5G networks for city-state

14 May 2019

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is backing the deployment of standalone 5G networks in the city-state, which will be capable of delivering a full suite of enterprise 5G capabilities, including network slicing and low latency connections for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. In a public consultation document published recently seeking feedback on its 5G plans, the regulator proposes that the country’s mobile network operators (MNOs) roll out standalone 5G specifications, which are expected to be harmonised internationally in early 2020.

Currently, fifth-generation networks in many countries are basing their deployments on non-standalone specifications, which industry watchers note support next-gen mobile broadband services by using large bandwidths and hardware improvements – but still rely on existing 4G networks for connectivity. However, standalone 5G will offer an independent network approach that better facilitates more advanced capabilities such as ultra-low latency and higher density of connections to support IoT. The regulator points out that standalone systems will be built on new architecture, including a virtualised core network, to support network slicing which ‘will allow telcos to offer critical service providers their own private 5G networks for secure and real-time connectivity to the cloud’.

‘Singapore seeks to leverage 5G to spearhead innovation, and develop differentiated offerings in 5G applications,’ IMDA claims. ‘Globally, as the business case and economics of 5G are still nascent, IMDA will nurture the 5G ecosystem by focusing our development efforts in selected areas’.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, earlier this month IMDA called on interested telcos to submit detailed proposals on their 5G deployment plans, suggesting that by 2020 at least two networks will be rolled out in the city-state. The regulator intends to assign 5G-suitable spectrum to ‘two winning submissions’ through a Call For Proposal (CFP) regulatory instrument, rather than conducting an auction of spectrum, with telcos’ proposals assessed instead on the quality of their deployment schedules. It is understood that these include hitting 50% 5G network coverage by 2023, an agreement to allow MVNOs to access the new network to provide resell services and fulfilling the watchdog’s financial capability requirements to support the rollout. IMDA plans to allocate spectrum in the 3.5GHz, 26GHz and 28GHz bands for 5G in the initial tranche of spectrum allocation to telcos. This will be sufficient for at least two nationwide 5G networks, the authority confirmed.