Singapore's biggest telecom operators chose Nokia and Ericsson AB over Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei to build the country's main 5G networks that will form the backbone of the economy. However, Huawei's involvement cannot be ruled out completely as it may be included in later stages in the broader ecosystem but at a reduced capacity.
While making the announcement, Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said that the city-state had very clear requirements and those were taken into account by the telecommunication companies while finalizing Finland's Nokia and Sweden's Ericsson as vendors.
Nokia, Ericsson Steal the Show
Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (Singtel) chose Ericsson, while a joint venture between StarHub and M1 chose Nokia as vendors after the two local telcos were given the final approval on Wednesday by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the country's telecom regulator, to go ahead with the task of building two nationwide 5G networks. The two local telecommunication companies were provisionally selected in April after they completed the regulatory process including selecting the preferred frequency spectrum lots and vendor partners.
The two telcos have to cover the entire city-state with 5G networks by 2025, which will take Singapore a step closer to a more Artificial Intelligence (AI) dependent future. "The final award sets the stage for the development of a world-class, resilient and secure 5G infrastructure, which is going to be the backbone of Singapore's digital economy," said Iswaran.
TPG Telecom Pte Ltd, which failed to win a nationwide license for 5G, will be allocated the remaining frequency spectrum in the millimeter wave band to operate localized 5G networks. Interestingly, TPG had chosen Huawei as its key vendor.
Beginning of a New Era
Singapore has been trying to make a complete switch to 5G network for a while now and IMDA over the past few months has taken some significant steps toward this landmark change. A complete 5G network will take the country closer to a future that would depend on robot-run factories and port, driverless vehicles and go-cloud gaming.
Singapore plans to cover half the city-state with 5G signals by end-2022, and the entire island by 2025. However, the Covid-19 pandemic may likely delay the process, said Iswaran.
China's Huawei was always in contention given that the company is touted as the best in 5G networks. However, Huawei has been under pressure since allegations were made by the United States that China could use the company's equipment for spying. This has somewhat put a question mark on Huawei's credibility as a transparent company, which now has raised doubts in the minds of European Union (EU) regulators.
IMDA, last year, had shared Singapore's requirements in terms of performance, security, and resilience that local telcos needed to ensure their 5G networks have. This probably may have led to Huawei's exclusion from Singapore's 5G plans. "Our CFP process did not exclude any vendor... the emphasis was on security, resilience and performance," Mr Iswaran said.
That said, the telcos are expected to pump in billions of dollars to roll out the 5G infrastructure over the next 15 years, the validity of their license. Advance 5G networks assure 20 times the surfing speed than 4G networks and have the ability to connect 1,000 times as many devices.