New $30m fund to drive commercial adoption of 5G solutions

Successful applicants will receive up to 70% of project costs under additional govt grant

Minister S. Iswaran and Head of Tuas Development Nelson Quek (left) at the demonstration of the automated guided vehicle yesterday. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Minister S. Iswaran and Head of Tuas Development Nelson Quek (left) at the demonstration of the automated guided vehicle yesterday. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Businesses in Singapore will now be able to tap a new $30 million government fund to test and adopt 5G solutions, as the country pushes ahead in its 5G drive.

The fund is in addition to a previous $40 million grant under the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) 5G Innovation Programme rolled out in 2019.

Similar to the earlier grant, successful applicants will receive up to 70 per cent of the costs of their projects. But they will now need to show plans for commercialisation.

Applications for the previous fund closed last May. The Straits Times understands that most of the money has been disbursed.

The impetus for the new fund is the imminent launch of Singapore's two nationwide 5G networks, which will have to cover at least half of the island by the end of next year, said IMDA chief executive Lew Chuen Hong yesterday.

"With the previous fund, we wanted to be an early adopter (of 5G) and kickstart small-scale pilots. But now that 5G is in the process of rolling out, the emphasis is on driving commercial adoption by actual companies in actual-use cases," Mr Lew added.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran announced the new grant yesterday at Pasir Panjang Terminal, where a 5G trial involving automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and rubber tyred gantry cranes has been ongoing since 2019.

The 5G port trial is a collaboration between IMDA, telcos M1 and Singtel, and PSA Singapore and the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore. It is among seven 5G-use cases that have previously received funding.

Currently, four of about 30 driverless AGVs in Pasir Panjang Terminal run on 5G to move cargo within the port area. PSA aims to operate over 2,000 AGVs concurrently in the upcoming Tuas Megaport riding on the increased bandwidth that 5G offers in comparison with 4G, which allows only 300-400 AGVs to run at the same time.

There is also less lag time between when commands are issued over the network and when the vehicles respond. This is due to the lower latency of 5G networks.

PSA's trial "is a very vivid example of how 5G will generate not just productivity gains but also new kinds of applications", said Mr Iswaran, who called for more potential partners to work with the Government. "Ultimately the technology must yield tangible opportunities for our companies and our people," he added.

Other 5G-use cases include a cloud gaming trial between Singtel and Razer that began in October 2019, and a smart manufacturing tie-up between M1, IBM and Samsung announced last May.

Yesterday, M1, tech firm and automotive supplier Continental Automotive Singapore and JTC Corporation also announced they will be starting trials of 5G-enabled autonomous mobile robots for last-mile delivery of food and goods.

The trials will be carried out at the Jurong Innovation District.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2021, with the headline 'New $30m fund to drive commercial adoption of 5G solutions'. Subscribe