IMDA extends deadline for 5G network licence bids to Feb 17

Singapore has set its sights on four 5G networks. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The deadline for 5G network licence bids has been extended to Feb 17 by the the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

The authority said on Thursday (Jan 9) that this was to give operators more time to submit their proposals.

This is an extension from the initial Call for Proposal deadline of Jan 21. Bidders were able to turn in their applications for the four available licences since Oct 17 last year.

Singapore has set its sights on four 5G networks as it takes bolder steps to embrace a technology believed to be crucial to the nation's economic growth.

All four networks can be rolled out by this year, although nationwide coverage will take much longer and be limited to only two networks due to the scarcity of 5G airwaves for islandwide reach.

These scarce airwaves, that enable nationwide reach, will become available only in 2021, and wider coverage will start being rolled out in 2022. However, all four networks may offer localised coverage in 2020.

Singtel and StarHub have confirmed that they are eyeing the networks with islandwide reach.

The Business Times reported on Thursday that it understands the 5G deadline extension is not expected to affect the timeline for Singapore's 5G roll-out.

The four telcos - Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom - also welcomed the extension by IMDA, said BT.

Proposals will be assessed on telcos' ability to meet baseline regulatory requirements. These include achieving 50 per cent 5G network coverage islandwide by end 2022, and willingness to sell network services wholesale to other mobile operators not issued with the airwaves.

The proposer's financial capability to roll out the proposed 5G networks is also a key criterion.

A public consultation completed in July last year elicited calls to involve all four telcos here - Singtel, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom - to spur innovation.

TPG Telecom is the country's newest telco and won its 4G licence in December 2016. It entered the market in late-2018. TPG is also working with real estate firm CapitaLand and map service provider Navinfo Datatech to test cloud-based driverless car navigation at Science Park 1 and 2 over a 5G connection.

5G technology promises surfing speeds 20 times faster than what 4G networks offer and the ability to connect 1,000 times as many devices. A full-fledged 5G network will also be able to support critical applications such as driverless car navigation and remote surgery that requires a constant connection without lag.

However, analysts have estimated the cumulative cost of a 5G network to be in the billions, requiring telcos to partner one another to share the costs.

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