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Government to invest S$40m in 5G innovation as a start: Iswaran

SINGAPORE has made its first funding commitment for 5G mobile networks - a technology that it is banking on, to support the Republic’s digital economy.

The government is pledging an initial S$40 million to kick-start 5G innovation here, according to Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran on Thursday.

That sum, which has been set aside for the coming year, will go to exploring and testing 5G use cases identified as strategic, with strong growth potential and global opportunities.

Some funds have also been earmarked for research and development projects, with 5G cybersecurity named a focus for the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), National Research Foundation and Cyber Security Agency.

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More research funding for other areas of 5G research, such as telecommunication network technology, will be announced in future, according to the IMDA.

“We cannot be content with merely building systems and networks,” said Mr Iswaran, at the launch of the IMDA’s “5GSG” initiative during Smart Nation Innovation Week.

“A thriving 5G ecosystem requires an environment that is conducive to innovation in developing cutting edge use-cases, as well as open test-beds to enable ecosystem sharing and capability development.”

The IMDA has named maritime operations, urban mobility, Industry 4.0 manufacturing and consumer applications as some of the six clusters that will see early adoption trials for 5G.

Public grants to hold industry trials will be open for application from now until May 31, 2020.

Mainboard-listed telecom provider Singtel, as well as two government bodies - the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and industrial landlord JTC Corp - have already inked an agreement to deploy 5G for tasks such as guiding plant operators with augmented reality, and tracking automated guided vehicles on the factory floor.

The joint Industry 4.0 trials will be carried out at the A*Star model factory at Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre, which is in Jurong, off Jalan Bahar.

Meanwhile, the first 5G open test-bed will be at the IMDA’s Pixel facility in the one-north district.

Pixel, which was opened in 2016 to develop the infocomm media industries, will let tech and media startups try out 5G applications - for example, in immersive media, gaming and content streaming - by the first half of next year.

The latest public 5G funding commitment comes a day after Mr Iswaran unveiled the Digital Industry Singapore joint office, which was tasked with building up the Republic’s technology sector and creating up to 10,000 new jobs in three years.

Separately, the deadline for IMDA’s ongoing consultation on 5G - which had been due to close on June 19 - was extended at the eleventh hour to July 9, amid what the agency said were “requests from the industry for more time” to submit their feedback.

The IMDA expects the first 5G networks to be available in Singapore by next year, but wide-scale deployment may be possible only from 2023 at the earliest.