Singapore awards ‘provisional’ 5G licences

30 Apr 2020

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore has announced the winners of its 5G Call For Proposal (CFP), with mobile network operator (MNO) Singtel and a joint venture (JVCo) set up by MNO rivals StarHub and M1 awarded provisional rights to operate 5G networks across the city-state. In a statement, the regulator confirmed that Singtel and the StarHub-M1 JV will each be allotted 100MHz of 5G-suitable spectrum in the 3.5GHz band to deploy nationwide networks, adding that other mobile service providers will be allowed to access these new 5G networks via wholesale agreements. ‘We received three compelling proposals that met and, in some cases, exceeded, our requirements,’ noted IMDA chief executive Tan Kiat How.

The industry watchdog also confirmed its intention to allocate millimetre-wave spectrum (mmWave) to MNOs for the provision of high-capacity 5G hotspots on a localised basis, with each assigned 800MHz of the mmWave spectrum band. ‘With this [spectrum], M1, StarHub, Singtel, TPG Telecom and mobile virtual network operators would be able to offer retail 5G services to end users,’ the statement said. The smaller mmWave 5G networks will use airwaves that are ‘in abundance’ in Singapore; these networks can be rolled out as early as this year, it noted.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, at the closing of its CFP deadline on 17 February 2020, IMDA had received three bids from the city-state’s mobile operators, with Singtel and TPG Telecom each submitting separate bids, and StarHub-M1 handing over a joint bid. The proposals were evaluated based on: network design and resilience; network rollout (i.e. achieve 50% islandwide coverage by end-2022) and performance; price offered for one lot of 3.5GHz band; and financial capability. IMDA confirmed that both winners will be given ‘provisional awards’ pending completion of regulatory processes, such as the selection of spectrum lots and confirmation of technical and legal matters, allowing them to start their deployments of 5G networks thereafter. Following yesterday’s announcement, TPG Telecom’s acting CEO Richard Tan said only that his company would ‘continue to explore all options for the potential delivery of 5G services in the future’.

It is anticipated that new standalone (SA) networks will start to be available from January 2021, with the aim of licensees hitting the 50% coverage target by end-2022 and achieving nationwide coverage by the end of 2025.