Singtel and Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson will launch a 5G pilot network by the fourth quarter to support drone and self-driving car tests in the one-north district.
Mr Raymond Soh, Ericsson's head of network solutions for Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, said: "We plan to test some drone flying with connected networks, that is the first thing we are going to do. Then we will look at how autonomous vehicles can benefit from 5G, so it is a longer-term exploration."
He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a technology showcase yesterday.
5G refers to "fifth-generation" mobile technology, which is expected to open up industry and consumer applications with significantly faster wireless speeds and much less latency or "lag time".
Singtel group chief technology officer Mark Chong noted of the planned one-north trials: "The location is in line with the Government's initiative to designate one-north as a test bed for autonomous vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems."
The two telecommunications companies last year set up a joint Centre of Excellence to develop 5G technology, with an initial investment of $2 million to be deployed over three years. Mr Chong said the funding for the one-north trials will come out of that kitty.
We plan to test some drone flying with connected networks, that is the first thing we are going to do. Then we will look at how autonomous vehicles can benefit from 5G, so it is a longer-term exploration.
MR RAYMOND SOH, Ericsson's head of network solutions for Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines.
Ms Aileen Chia, deputy chief executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), called the move "an encouraging step towards commercialisation with live 5G trial networks made possible with the regulatory sandbox IMDA has in place".
IMDA waived frequency fees for 5G trials last year, until the end of next year.
Singtel's Australian subsidiary Optus and Philippine associate Globe have previously announced plans to roll out commercial 5G services next year, albeit with fixed wireless access points and not mobile broadband.
Mr Johnson Loh, South-east Asia analyst in private banking research at Credit Suisse, said mobile operators making upfront investments in 5G "stand to have 'first-mover advantage' in deploying new services and realising monetisation opportunities".
He added: "However, the investment timeline will likely be long as operators are probably waiting for equipment that is fully compatible with the official 5G New Radio standard and a more mature standards-based infrastructure, to take advantage of the economies of scale."
Other mobile network operators are also working on 5G tests.
M1 said last month that it is partnering Huawei to start South-east Asia field trials by the year end, while StarHub chief technology officer Chong Siew Loong said yesterday that his company plans to switch on 5G base stations on its network, also by the year end.