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Singapore to start 5G roll-out by 2020: Iswaran

SINGAPORE plans to start rolling out fifth-generation mobile network technology, or 5G, by 2020.

Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran confirmed the market's timeframe expectations on Monday, in a move that he said was "to maintain Singapore's competitive edge in connectivity".

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) "will launch a public consultation shortly" on regulatory framework and policy issues such as spectrum allocation, Mr Iswaran added.

He was speaking at the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, in a reply to a question from MP Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) on the Republic's digital infrastructure capabilities.

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"The digital economy - streaming services, e-commerce and cloud computing - is built on the assumption of uninterrupted access to the Internet," Mr Ong had said.

"Loss of connectivity can have potentially catastrophic business consequences ... What are our plans to ensure that our digital infrastructure is able to support our growing digital economy?"

Mr Iswaran told the House in reply that "we aim to ensure that we have future-ready and globally competitive digital infrastructure, which is the bedrock of our digital economy".

The minister noted that 5G is expected to be as much as 100 times faster than the present 4G systems, with up to 25 times lower latency or lag time, and as many as one million devices supported within one square kilometre - that is, 1,000 times denser than is now possible.

"5G has the potential to fundamentally transform our businesses and the way they operate," said Mr Iswaran, pointing to "its capacity to handle many high-demand applications simultaneously".

These could include network connectivity for self-driving vehicles, industrial automation and the Internet of Things, and nationwide sensor networks, he observed.

Singapore's three incumbent network operators - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - have all kicked off 5G trials with industry partners, including a 5G pilot network in the one-north district, by Singtel and Ericsson.

Meanwhile, the IMDA has been waiving the frequency fees associated with 5G trials since 2017.