by Zafar Anjum

Singapore gives new push to 5G commercialisation use cases

Mar 14, 2021

A S$30 million fund will support a range of projects, including autonomous port vehicles and smart manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 / Industrial IoT / Smart Factory
Credit: Pugun Photo / Getty Images

Singapore is pushing ahead with its drive to commercialise 5G technology applications across the island state.

The latest initiative in this direction is a S$30 million fund to test and adopt 5G solutions in the country, which the Singapore government announced earlier this year.

The government had already rolled out a previous S$40 million grant under the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) 5G Innovation Programme in 2019. This fund has already been disbursed, thus the need for a new fund.

While the earlier fund was to kickstart small-scale pilot projects using 5G technology, the new S$30 million fund, announced by Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, is to drive commercial adoption by companies in actual use cases, according to Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) chief executive Lew Chuen Hong.

Iswaran announced the new grant at Singapore’s port, Pasir Panjang Terminal, where 5G application trials are underway. These involve automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and rubber-tyred gantry cranes. These trials are a collaboration among government agency IMDA, telecommunication providers M1 and Singtel, and the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).

At present, only four of about 30 driverless AGVs in Pasir Panjang Terminal run via 5G to move cargo within the port area. The aim is to operate more than 2,000 AGVs concurrently in the upcoming Tuas Megaport with 5G technology. This will mean immense gain for productivity because the previous 4G technology allows the concurrent operation of only 300 to 400 AGVs.

Besides the 5G trials at Singapore’s ports, there are other use cases in trial. These include a cloud gaming trial between Singtel and Razer, a smart manufacturing tie-up among M1, IBM, and Samsung, and soon to start trials of autonomous mobile robots that communicate via 5G networks for last-mile delivery of food and goods by M1, tech firm and automotive supplier Continental Automotive Singapore, and the government sustainability entity JTC.

The new fund’s announcement is seen as forerunner to the upcoming launch of Singapore’s two nationwide 5G networks. These networks aim to cover at least half of the island by 2023, Hong has said.

Reiterating Singapore’s push for wider adoption of 5G technology, Iswaran said again on 2 March during a parliamentary debate, “We are scaling up our efforts to go digital. We must continue the search for technology solutions that can power the next bound of our economic growth, and strengthen our position as a hub for digital innovation. 5G is key to this as it will be the backbone of our digital infrastructure. Singapore will have at least 50% 5G standalone outdoor coverage by the end of next year, and nationwide coverage by the end of 2025.”

Further, Janil Puthucheary, the senior minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, said at the MCI Committee of Supply Debate 2021 on the same day, “Looking ahead, we will need world-class, secure, and resilient 5G networks. It was thus a policy priority for our nationwide 5G networks to be standalone—new standalone networks, 5G, all the way through from end to end. 5G standalone networks unlock the full suite of capabilities including network slicing and ultrareliable low-latency communications necessary for applications such as cloud gaming and smart factories.”