Singapore Offers Spectrum, Targets Standalone 5G by 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore said it wants all four of its carriers to introduce 5G services, with half the city-state covered by a standalone network by 2022 to maintain competitiveness in developing technology.

The telecom regulator said Thursday it will select two network operators to deploy the 3.5GHz spectrum band on a standalone basis, while the two others will get bandwidth for upgrading existing 4G infrastructure to 5G.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority, which had previously said it would target at least two carriers for 5G, set a minimum base price of S$55 million ($40 million) for each bandwidth allotment for standalone networks, according to its statement Thursday. The regulator expects to start awarding the spectrum by the middle of next year.

The 5G network is necessary to “secure Singapore’s competitive edge,” S. Iswaran, communications minister, said in a statement. He told reporters that pricing for the bandwidth is in the “mid-range” of those in overseas markets.

The spectrum allocations will allow Singaporean carriers to offer 5G services by 2020, while some other countries in the region including China and South Korea are already offering some commercial 5G connectivity. Standalone networks are seen as crucial for developing and deploying applications from autonomous driving to remote surgery and factory automation.

Costs to build such networks may erode profit at carriers including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and StarHub Ltd., which had asked the government to make bandwidth available cheaply or free.

Singtel, as the company is known, said Thursday it was reviewing the IMDA’s call for proposals. Shares in Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by market value fell 0.6% as of 1:42 p.m. in Singapore trading.

The spectrum licenses to be awarded next year would run for as long as 16 years, according to the regulator’s presentation Thursday.

Singapore is already facilitating trials for its use it in drones, autonomous vessels, remote operations of ports and manufacturing sector, to support the use of the 5G technology.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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