Singtel urges IMDA to issue 5G network licences for free

Singtel's first unmanned pop-up store at 20 Pickering Street has no shop assistants, but customers are greeted by a service staff member via a video screen on a roving robot. It is a self-service store that allows customers to try out phones, sign up
Singtel's first unmanned pop-up store at 20 Pickering Street has no shop assistants, but customers are greeted by a service staff member via a video screen on a roving robot. It is a self-service store that allows customers to try out phones, sign up for plans and buy phone accessories round the clock.PHOTO: SINGTEL
Singtel's Singapore consumer chief Yuen Kuan Moon says unmanned stores could be one of the ways to apply 5G technologies.
Above: Singtel's Singapore consumer chief Yuen Kuan Moon says unmanned stores could be one of the ways to apply 5G technologies..PHOTO: SINGTEL
Above: Singtel's Singapore consumer chief Yuen Kuan Moon says unmanned stores could be one of the ways to apply 5G technologies. Left: Customers can collect their purchases on the spot from the in-store POPStation.
Above: Customers can collect their purchases on the spot from the in-store POPStation.

If not, telco has all the 'ingredients' to win rights, says its S'pore consumer chief

Telco giant Singtel wants Singapore's telecoms regulator to give out the two 5G mobile network licences for free, a move that would reduce the investments needed to build the new 5G service.

But should regulators decide to assign the 5G airwaves to two winning proposals, Singtel has "all the right ingredients" to win the rights to operate the network, its Singapore consumer chief Yuen Kuan Moon said yesterday.

The two nationwide networks could be rolled out as early as next year.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority is currently holding a public consultation to get feedback from industry players and members of the public on a proposed 5G regulatory framework, including how it plans to pick operators. The consultation ends at noon on June 19.

The regulator does not plan to hold an airwaves auction, it said last month.

Mr Yuen told reporters at a Singtel event that it is "appealing to our regulator to reconsider" its current plan to hand out licences to two winning proposals.

"Some other countries have given 5G licences for free, without an auction or without a beauty contest," he told The Straits Times at the launch of Singtel's first unmanned pop-up store yesterday.

While the 5G mobile network will benefit frontier applications such as self-driving cars and virtual-reality content streaming services in the future, there are currently hardly any immediate ways that industry players can effectively monetise the 5G service.

In Britain, mobile operators paid £1.1 billion (S$1.9 billion) in licence fees for access to 5G airwaves.

With all the preparatory work Singtel has put in place, Mr Yuen thinks it can put up a strong case for the proposed beauty contest.

"We have all the right ingredients... We believe we will put up a very strong proposition for the beauty contest."


Customers can collect their purchases on the spot from the in-store POPStation.

He also said he was not overly concerned with who will win the 5G licences as the winners have to sell network services wholesale to mobile operators who are not issued the airwaves.

"In fact, there could potentially be only one network operations with everyone sharing it.

"We'd be happy to roll out, deploy that network and wholesale to all the rest of the people," he added.

In Singapore, there are no immediate applications for the consumer sector and he thinks 5G technologies will largely be used in the business-to-business sector, although very few commercial applications of the technology exist currently and most businesses are still experimenting and trying out the services.

The unmanned pop-up store Mr Yuen launched, which is a pilot effort, is at 20 Pickering Street.

It is a self-service store that allows customers to try out mobile phones, sign up for subscription plans and buy phone accessories round the clock. There are no shop assistants, but customers are greeted by a service staff member via a video screen on a roving robot.

When they are ready to sign up for a mobile-phone plan, they will be guided step-by-step by sales staff via a video screen.

Singtel plans to deploy more of such unmanned stores around the island, including at key transport hubs and school campuses. Until then, the unmanned store will stay at Pickering Street for "a couple of months", according to Singtel.

Such unmanned stores could be one of the ways to apply 5G technologies, Mr Yuen noted.

"If 5G is available, I can move the pop-up store everywhere... and provide all the connectivity to the store without having to lay any fibre cables to provide the Internet connection," he said.

This will be one commercial application that can be used by all pop-up stores in Singapore, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Singtel urges IMDA to issue 5G network licences for free'. Print Edition | Subscribe