Fitch sees 5G investment risk contained despite competition

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) plans to assign spectrum based on the financial standing of spectrum holders and their network security designs. Fitch says 5G spectrum allocation by IMDA is sufficient for the next three years until mo
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) plans to assign spectrum based on the financial standing of spectrum holders and their network security designs. Fitch says 5G spectrum allocation by IMDA is sufficient for the next three years until more spectrum bands become available.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Investment risk for 5G should be contained over the next 18 months despite raised competition from more firms in the market, Fitch Ratings said yesterday.

It cited the localised network deployment in the initial period and reasonably priced spectrum.

Fitch Ratings' view follows the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) announcement of its 5G regulatory framework on Thursday - with plans to develop the 5G ecosystem.

The regulator is planning to assign spectrum based on the financial standing of spectrum holders and their network security designs.

The results for the award are due in the middle of next year.

The increased competition it referred to stems from the Singapore Government's decision to award licences to operate up to four such mobile networks, double the two initially planned.

Fitch Ratings believes telco Singtel is "well placed" to win 5G spectrum due to its strong financial standing.

Other mobile network operators are StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom.

Fitch also said 5G spectrum allocation by IMDA is sufficient for the next three years until more spectrum bands, such as 2.1GHz and 4.5GHz, become available.

Access to sufficient and affordable spectrum is also crucial to realise 5G's potential, said the agency.

Singapore's $55 million base price for 100MHz of the 3.5GHz frequency translates to seven US cents (10 Singapore cents) per MHz per capita. This is below Hong Kong's latest 5G spectrum auction at nine US cents.

The authorities in markets such as China and Japan have chosen to assign 5G spectrum to operators at a token fee instead of an auction, to drive commercial launches next year.

The 3.5GHz band is being used for satellite communications in Singapore and neighbouring countries - and will be freed up only in 2021.

IMDA is planning to reach 50 per cent 5G nationwide coverage by 2023, and full coverage by 2025.

Fitch said a shared network model would enhance the feasibility of 5G due to scale advantages and capacity for leverage it brings to telcos.

"Successful spectrum holders of the 3.5GHz will be required to provide 5G wholesale services, enabling mobile virtual network operators to lease network space without significant cost outlays," it said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Fitch sees 5G investment risk contained despite competition'. Print Edition | Subscribe