Singtel and Ericsson unveil 5G testbed, but now what?
By Benjamin Cher August 3, 2016
- 5G offers higher throughput and lower latency than 4G
- Aims to inspire app development in preparation for 5G rollout in 2020
SINGAPORE Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel) and Ericsson have rolled out what they claim is South-East Asia’s first 5G (Fifth Generation) testbed, more than a year after Singtel had declared that it intends to be amongst the first telcos in the world to roll out the next-generation technology.
Since the industry has yet to determine standards for the next-generation network, the testbed would showcase what the two companies are describing as ‘pre-standardised’ 5G based on Ericsson’s 5G radio prototype.
The testbed would showcase 5G capabilities such as its peak throughput of 27.5Gbps and latency as low as 2ms (milliseconds), which they said would make possible new types of commercial applications.
This testbed and showcase would put Singapore on the 5G map, Singtel group chief technology officer Tay Soo Meng declared at the launch.
This testbed is the result of a 5G memorandum of understanding signed between the two parties in January 2015, involving evaluating and testing technologies that are strong candidates for future 5G standardisation.
There have not been many 5G trials yet, according to Yuen Kuan Moon, chief executive officer of Singtel’s Consumer Singapore business.
“There’s a lot of interest but not a lot of experiments yet … but the ideas are there,” he said.
“We are at an early investment stage, but this gives us an opportunity,” he added.
5G networks and industries
Singtel and Ericsson are confident that 5G networks will transform various industries, among them television and media, manufacturing, healthcare, telecommunications, transportation, and infrastructure.
“5G capabilities extend beyond mobile broadband to support massive machine-to-machine communications and critical real-time communication,” said Tay.
“5G will transform industry, businesses and consumer lifestyles,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ericsson is betting that it would most transform industries such as automotive and transport, manufacturing, process, safety and security, agriculture, and energy and utilities.
“We have identified a number of areas that we are looking into, and have also identified a number of industries and companies that we would be collaborating [with],” said Dr Magnus Ewerbring, chief technology officer, Ericsson Asia Pacific.
Not just bragging rights
Being the first in the region might be something to brag about, but are there any benefits since no standards have been defined yet?
ABI Research senior analyst Su Lian Jye (pic) believes the testbed goes beyond bragging rights.
“The implications of having the testbed here in Singapore is to show Singtel’s determination to being the first mobile operator to launch a 5G network in South-East Asia, or even Asia,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
“As 5G will only be standardised in 2018 and commercial deployment is only expected in 2020, we have seen a lot of Tier 1 mobile operators partnering with mobile infrastructure vendors to get their network infrastructure ready for 5G.
“Therefore the testbed not only allows Singtel to test and finetune its current network deployment to the expected 5G requirements, but also provides it with the opportunity to develop patents and IP (intellectual property) around 5G technology.
“It would also allow it to influence the standardisation process, whether it is in 3GPP or the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Network) Alliance,” he added, pointing to two industry bodies working on standards.
Another benefit Su sees is to spark 5G interest among other players in vertical industries to come out with business models or even to partner with Singtel to provide 5G related services.
This aligns with what Singtel’s Yuen brought up as well, which is “to show that this is possible and no longer only on paper … to trigger creative thinking and determine what’s possible in the future.”
As for low-hanging fruit, Su suggested that the Internet of Things (IoT) could be largely deployed on 5G networks.
“Applications such as cloud computing, autonomous transportation, critical communications in mining and first emergency response in public safety would be among the first enterprise applications to deploy 5G network architecture,” he said.
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