Singtel says its 5G strategy involves building new services, not just network access

Singtel can start rolling out its standalone 5G network in Singapore from early next year. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Singtel, which was confirmed last week as one of two nationwide 5G licence holders, shed more light on its plans for the new wireless technology in its annual report released on Wednesday (July 1).

Calling the group's approach to 5G different from the earlier 4G network, chief executive Chua Sock Koong told shareholders that Singtel plans to "move beyond access and connectivity" to create new solutions and services with 5G and reposition itself for growth.

Singtel's priorities are to get 5G off the ground, as well as integrate the network with artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and data technology "to deliver next-generation services", according to Allen Lew, who helms group strategy and business development.

Singtel can start rolling out its standalone 5G network in Singapore from early next year, and is required to have coverage of half the island by end-2022 and the whole country by end-2025.

Ms Chua said that the group would develop the technology across its subsidiaries and associates, adding: "This multi-year capital commitment will be a significant investment in not just our company's future but that of the wider community."

Neither Singtel nor the StarHub-M1 joint venture, which also bagged a 5G licence, have released a projection of the capital expenditure needed, although a DBS analyst earlier estimated that each 5G network could require up to $1.5 billion in investments over six to seven years.

Still, Singtel cited maritime operations, manufacturing and logistics, healthcare, energy and utilities, autonomous vehicles and consumer gaming as applications of the new 5G technology.

"5G will be transformative for industries and business models, unlock new careers and create sustainable economic and social value in the process," Ms Chua told shareholders.

Outgoing board chairman Simon Israel added in the group's sustainability report that, besides the long-term impact of the coronavirus on digital transformation and lifestyles, "we believe the roll-out of 5G globally will contribute further to this transition".

"Together with technologies such as the Internet of Things and AI, 5G will create new benefits and opportunities for businesses, society and our industry," said Mr Israel, who retires in July.

Singtel shares went into the midday break up by $0.02 or 0.8 per cent, at $2.48 on a cum-dividend basis after the release of the annual report in the morning.

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