5G regulation and law in Singapore

Information current as of 3 January 2020

What is the state of 5G deployment in Singapore?

In May 2019, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) issued a second public consultation (the Second Consultation) to consult on the regulatory framework and policies for 5G rollout in Singapore. IMDA intends to allocate the 3.5 GHz, 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands to 5G in an initial wave of spectrum allocation by 2021, and then open up other spectrum bands progressively until around 2025. The 3.5 GHz band will be used for nationwide service, with the 26 GHz and 28 GHz (mmWave) bands used for localised 5G coverage.

In June 2019, IMDA and the National Research Foundation announced that they had set aside S$40 million to build an open and inclusive 5G innovation ecosystem. This ecosystem is designed to support: (i) 5G technology trials for enterprise use-cases; (ii) creating a series of new open testbeds; and (iii) R&D in 5G, for example in matters of cybersecurity. IMDA will use this fund to explore strategic areas that IMDA has identified as being able to have the greatest benefit from 5G technologies, including maritime operations, Industry 4.0, smart estates, consumer applications and government applications.

Maritime

IMDA and port operating company PSA International awarded Singtel and M1 the ability to explore the usage of 5G technology for the maritime industry, with trials being conducted at the PSA Living Lab in Pasir Panjang Terminal from the 3rd quarter of 2019.

Industry 4.0

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), JTC Corporation and Singtel signed a memorandum of understanding for Singtel to deploy 5G at A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre for the integration of 5G into Internet-of-Things and Artificial Intelligence.

Smart estates

CapitaLand and NavInfo DataTech partnered with TPG Telecom to set up Singapore’s largest 5G smart estate trial at CapitaLand’s Singapore Science Park to develop and testbed 5G enabled Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything technologies.

Consumer applications

IMDA, Razer and Singtel are testing 5G for use in cloud gaming in urban environments, utilising the high bandwidth and low latency features of 5G which are well suited to the requirements of cloud gaming.

Government applications

IMDA and Microsoft signed a Memorandum of Intent to accelerate the development of Singapore’s 5G ecosystem, making available a 5G development environment for participating government agencies, enterprises and technology companies, which includes usage of 5G technology to develop a series of open testbeds for both governmental and industrial use, which is aiming for launch in the first half of 2020.

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

IMDA launched a Call for Proposal (CFP) to facilitate the roll out of 5G mobile networks by 2020 with standalone 5G networks covering at least 50% of Singapore by the end of 2022. All four Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) (Singtel, Starhub, M1 and TPG Telecom) were invited to submit proposals for launching the 5G services.

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licences?

Yes, under the CFP, two equal spectrum packages will be put up for bids among the four existing MNOs. IMDA proposes to allocate:

  • Two spectrum packages of: (i) a 100 MHz lot comprising spectrum for unrestricted and restricted use; and (ii) a 50 MHz lot for unrestricted use; and
  • Two lots of 800 MHz of the mmWave bands to be paired with the 3.5 GHz spectrum, to be issued to the two successful 3.5 GHz spectrum holders.

Proposals are due by 21 January 2020 and the decisions as to the licences are expected by the middle of 2020.

What are the conditions?

CFP applicants are required to submit detailed proposals for 5G deployment. IMDA will score and rank the proposals according to the following criteria:

  • network design and resilience (40%);
  • network rollout and performance (35%);
  • price offered for one lot of 3.5 GHz band (15%); and
  • financial capability (10%). 

The weights reflect their relative importance vis-à-vis IMDA’s 5G policy outcomes.

For the full networks, operators need to exceed a base price of S$55 million (plus an annual usage fee of S$154,000) for 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz spectrum. They will need their standalone networks to reach at least 50% coverage of Singapore by 2023. The two selected MNOs will also be required to deploy the 3.5 GHz spectrum band on a standalone basis (not using existing 4G infrastructure) to unlock 5G’s full-fledged capabilities, such as network slicing, ultra-reliable low latency communications, and massive machine type communications.

The mmWave networks will attract an annual fee of S$1.23 million for 800 MHz in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz spectrums. The MNOs will have the flexibility to deploy the mmWave spectrum on a non-standalone basis, by leveraging their existing 4G infrastructure to deliver localised 5G services focusing mainly on higher broadband speeds.

IMDA will also require deployment of 5G standalone networks over the 3.5 GHz band from the outset. MNOs who wish to deploy non-standalone networks in the 3.5 GHz band, over and above their standalone networks, must seek IMDA’s prior approval. MNOs must ensure that their non-standalone deployments will not compromise IMDA’s policy outcome of achieving two 5G standalone networks and capabilities within the stipulated timeframes. As the roadmap for the mmWave standalone equipment ecosystem is still in its early stages, IMDA will allow MNOs the flexibility to choose standalone or non-standalone deployment for the mmWave band in the interim. MNOs which choose to deploy non-standalone networks must deploy standalone networks within 24 months from when the ecosystem is ready.

What has the government said regarding spectrum licences for commercial use?

IMDA proposes a spectrum right duration of 12 to 15 years to provide sufficient investment certainty, while catering for technological changes and new 5G spectrum bands. The spectrum rights for the 3.5 GHz and mmWave spectrum will expire at the same time.

To meet IMDA’s policy objectives, interested players will be required to meet certain baseline regulatory requirements: 

  • IMDA will require operators awarded the 3.5 GHz band to achieve at least 50% outdoors 5G standalone coverage within 24 months, i.e., at the end of 2022. The proposed network architecture is expected to be able to support 5G use cases requiring enhanced mobile broadband experience, ultra-reliable and low latency communications and massive machine type communications, as well as network slicing, amongst other full-fledged 5G capabilities;
  • IMDA will require 3.5 GHz spectrum right holders aim to achieve nationwide 5G outdoor coverage within 5 years from the commencement of the 3.5 GHz spectrum right, i.e., by the end of 2025. The MNOs may propose a reasonable timeline to achieve nationwide coverage;
  • interested players will be required to design and build trusted and resilient 5G networks to meet IMDA’s regulatory requirements; and 
  • interested players will be required to provide 5G wholesale services to other MNOs/Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

a. IMDA will require operators awarded the 3.5 GHz band to achieve at least 50% outdoors 5G standalone coverage within 24 months, i.e., at the end of 2022. The proposed network architecture is expected to be able to support 5G use cases requiring enhanced mobile broadband experience, ultra-reliable and low latency communications and massive machine type communications, as well as network slicing, amongst other full-fledged 5G capabilities;

b. IMDA will require 3.5 GHz spectrum right holders aim to achieve nationwide 5G outdoor coverage within 5 years from the commencement of the 3.5 GHz spectrum right, i.e., by the end of 2025. The MNOs may propose a reasonable timeline to achieve nationwide coverage;

c. interested players will be required to design and build trusted and resilient 5G networks to meet IMDA’s regulatory requirements; and

d. interested players will be required to provide 5G wholesale services to other MNOs/Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

The rules for 5G have not been drafted, but IMDA intends to impose baseline regulatory requirements to ensure 5G networks are trusted and resilient, while providing flexibility in the regulatory framework to allow growth and adjustment in the market.

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

IMDA intends to require spectrum rights holders to provide 5G wholesale services to other mobile service operators on request. To facilitate this, IMDA intends to update the negotiation principles guiding wholesale access provision and will issue a separate consultation on this. Generally, the expectation is that dominant licensees are required to offer interconnection and access services at the prices and on the terms approved by the IMDA. Otherwise, IMDA strongly encourages licensees to enter into interconnection and access agreements through commercial negotiations.

Jeremy Tan
Jeremy Tan
Toby Grainger
Toby Grainger
Managing Partner
Singapore
Picture of Hanson Sarah
Sarah Hanson
Partner
London