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THE BOTTOM LINE

Powering Singapore's 5G future

5G mobile networks are set to be launched in Singapore by 2020, making the country a frontrunner in the adoption of the next technological revolution in connectivity and wireless mobile networks, after 4G LTE.

The impending rollout has led to much discussion about the applications and future of the technology. 5G networks are expected to offer speeds that are up to 20 times faster than current 4G technologies, opening the door to new possibilities such as seamless access to virtual reality content, wider use of autonomous vehicles, cloud gaming and much more.

Going beyond the consumer applications, Singapore has recognised the role that 5G can play in propelling the development of infrastructure and fast-tracking the goal of becoming a Smart Nation. It is clear that 5G technology and networks will be a critical part of Singapore's digital economy.

The government also announced a S$40 million investment towards 5G innovation. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) identified six strategic clusters for early adoption trials - maritime operations, urban mobility, smart estates management, smart manufacturing, as well as government and consumer applications.

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While faster speed is often identified as the key benefit of 5G networks, consistency and reliability are just as important to further productivity, innovation and efficiency among these and other strategic applications of 5G.

Imagine a surgeon performing surgery remotely via robotic arms - it is crucial for each movement made by the surgeon to be echoed in real time through the device. Of course, network speed is critical, but faster speeds do not circumvent the possibility of jitter, a fluctuation in network latency caused by congestion or route changes, which could well be the difference between life and death for the patient.

Much like the scenario painted above, jitter can be detrimental to a wide range of industries that require processes to be carried out like clockwork. For instance, autonomous vehicles that cannot hit the brakes on time or firefighters not being able to attain the delivery of critical water supply at a crucial moment when fighting fires remotely.

Therefore it will be crucial for Singapore to invest in both its data and network infrastructure to ensure consistency and reliability in the application of 5G networks.

POWERING A 5G FUTURE

With more than 75 billion devices predicted to be connected to the Internet by 2025, there will be an exponential increase in data generated, leading to the need for more capacity to transmit that data reliably and consistently, especially when it comes to industrial and civil 5G applications. This will demand significant and rapid action. Singapore will need to invest in expansive, flexible data platforms that support its infrastructural requirements in the era of 5G and beyond.

The key to powering a 5G future lies in data centres. Data centres that are closer to end-users offer a low-latency, high-reliability infrastructural platform that provides hyperscale capabilities to support data applications of any size.

While data centres from the past were focused on hosting large numbers of discrete computers, today's data centres are built around a common infrastructure in which application, storage, computing and communications capabilities can be instantly changed, as future requirements dictate. This flexibility allows data centres to support new requirements by increasingly functioning not as islands of availability and reliability, but as highly interconnected nodes in increasingly global networks that provide the engine room for Singapore's digital revolution.

A key example is Digital Realty's Digital Loyang II Data Centre. The new leading edge facility, projected to be fully operational by mid-2020, will be less than 25 km away from Singapore's central business district and will be in close proximity to the Changi North Cable landing station (a key sub-sea Internet landing station for Singapore). It is also strategically located adjacent to Digital Realty's other data centre in Loyang, Digital Loyang I, creating a Connected Campus that offers low latency and highly reliable uptime.

Although it is still too early to fully ascertain what Singapore's 5G future will look like, what is certain is the explosion of data that will follow the rollout of the technology. To ensure its position as a leader in 5G, Singapore will need to look towards data and network platforms with more capacity that ensure reliable, consistent, and near-instantaneous speeds.

  • The writer is managing director, Asia-Pacific, at Digital Realty