5G airwave fees to be waived in Singapore till December 2019 to spur industry trials

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim delivering an opening address on the Infocomm Media Business Exchange 2017 (imbX) at Marina Bay Sands on May 23, 2017.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim delivering an opening address on the Infocomm Media Business Exchange 2017 (imbX) at Marina Bay Sands on May 23, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Developments in ultra-fast mobile surfing and Internet of things (IoT) connectivity such as that for controlling driverless cars received a boost after the Government said it will waive the airwave fees required for testing these inventions.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will also be seeking public feedback on how existing regulations and the allocation of airwaves can be improved to bring Singapore one step closer to the next frontier: 5G services, said to be more than 10 times faster than 4G ones.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that the fee waiver until Dec 31, 2019, aims "to lower the regulatory barrier and encourage industry trials in 5G technology".

He was delivering the opening address on Tuesday (May 23) at the week-long Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) trade show at Marina Bay Sands.

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It is believed that innovations in 5G - which underpin developments in areas like virtual reality and IoT - will position Singapore's economy for growth and improve citizens' lives.

IoT refers to common objects that have Web connections, such as a connected fridge or light bulb. The faster 5G speeds can accommodate more of these devices as they come online.

5G communications also take place without lag due to the use of better data compression and antenna technologies. This allows for mission-critical exploits such as the mobilisation of remotely-controlled excavators for rescuing victims of a nuclear explosion.

"Given the quickening pace of digital innovation worldwide, we need to accelerate our own digital transformation to prepare our people and businesses for the future," said Dr Yaacob.

Beyond the needs of the 5G trials, IMDA has also anticipated local telcos' need for more bands of airwaves when 5G services are ready for commercial deployment - expected to be in 2020 or later after global nations standardise the technical requirements of 5G.

Standardisation ensures that 5G users from one part of the world can roam in another part of the world like they currently do with their 3G and 4G handsets.

IMDA has identified several bands of airwaves, including those currently used for fixed satellite connectivity, that may be suitable for 5G deployments.

In the first set of public consultation documents released on Tuesday (May 23), it wants to find out if the bands of airwaves it identified are suitable, and when they should be made available for commercial roll-out.

IMDA also wants to know if regulatory changes must be made to better facilitate 5G rollout and prevent interference with existing fixed satellite services.

The consultation ends on July 7.