M1 rolling out new high-speed network

S'pore's first HetNet will allow users to switch between 4G and Wi-Fi seamlessly

A woman walking past the M1 logo on March 15.
A woman walking past the M1 logo on March 15.PHOTO: AFP

Customers of telco M1 can now make use of a network which allows them to surf at high speeds without disruption.

The telco announced yesterday that it is rolling out Singapore's first commercial heterogeneous network, following network trials over the past year.

This heterogeneous network, or HetNet for short, allows users to "jump" across 4G or Wi-Fi networks to minimise surfing slowdowns or disruptions.

Users can automatically transfer from one network to another if traffic gets too heavy or when signal strength is weak, without needing to change any settings or manually connect to different networks.

"From the customer's point of view, it's completely seamless," said M1 chief operating officer Patrick Scodeller.

In effect, users will have higher download speeds and fewer network disconnections even when indoors or underground.

Currently, M1 customers will be able to make use of the HetNet service automatically at areas where the telco previously ran trials, such as Paragon in Orchard Road, Orchard Road and Raffles Place MRT station, and Jem mall in Jurong East. They do not have to subscribe to new plans.

They will eventually be able to do so at about 500 high-traffic hot spots, including MRT and LRT stations, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay and the Marina Bay area, with the progressive roll-out of hardware for the network.

M1 is putting $50 million into the initial stages of setting up this network, which covers the cost of the equipment as well as the installation and upkeep of the specialised hardware required.

Part of the amount will also go into the roll-out of a nationwide commercial narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network - a dedicated network for machines to send data to one another.

Slated to be ready in the first half of next year, the network is for devices that do not require much bandwidth and power. For example, transport firms may install sensors on their vehicles to keep track of their movement, and data is sent back via a 4G network.

A separate network allows them to use less power as they do not need to compete for network space with mobile users. This also frees up bandwidth for mobile users.

The telco did not give a breakdown on the cost of each project.

M1 is partnering Finnish communications company Nokia to deploy the hardware needed for both projects, such as Wi-Fi equipment and small-cell base stations.

HetNet uses both traditional base stations and small cells to provide coverage of areas that are hard to reach. The hardware also integrates both cellular and Wi-Fi technologies, making it easy for the user to switch seamlessly between the two in the event of a cellular disruption.

M1 claims that the HetNet service will be able to deliver peak theoretical download speeds of more than 1Gbps by next year - more than double the current peak speed of 450Mbps.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'M1 rolling out new high-speed network'. Print Edition | Subscribe