With 5G, Singapore is bringing the future to its enterprises

Despite already being one of the world’s most advanced economies, Singapore isn’t resting on its innovation laurels. While many other countries used the COVID-19 crisis to rethink their strategies to roll-out foundational 5G networks, Singapore has gone a step further by establishing a timeline for full-fledged 5G connectivity, and developing its nationwide business infrastructure to facilitate holistic commercialisation.

With Singapore’s telcos taking the initial steps towards launching 5G products and networks, Singaporeans can expect a plethora of 5G-enabled applications soon. To realise the unbounded benefits the new era of connectivity brings to the country’s economy, 5G infrastructure development must align with the real needs of societies and businesses, especially as we head towards Industry 4.0. 

This – in addition to the creation of support programmes spanning myriad industries and sectors – can help Singapore-based enterprises realize a host of new 5G enabled use cases as the nation enters its next phase of socio-economic development.

Making the smart moves for 5G deployment

The 5G revolution is gaining strong momentum in Singapore. By 2025, the country will be able to launch nationwide 5G services and leading this new charge for connectivity infrastructure development are two of the country’s leading communications service providers (CSPs), M1 and StarHub

This digital drive is especially important for Singapore as it doubles down on its Smart Nation objectives. Having been largely successful in weathering the turbulence of COVID-19, the key takeaway for the nation is that socio-economic resilience is more important than ever. To achieve that – and as we’re now already in the thick of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – businesses must bolster their digital readiness.

With plans for 5G roll-out now in place, the next, pivotal focus for the country is commercialization. This would then allow for the deeper, sustained and disruptive growth of enterprises as they prepare for a more digitally dependent business ecosystem. 

However, getting more Singaporean enterprises to join the 5G drive rests on the availability of support programmes that can help educate business decision-makers on 5G’s benefits, especially when applied to everyday, real-world settings. The Singapore Government has already rolled out initiatives like driving commercial adoption of 5G solutions via a S$30 million fund and a 5G incubation lab, talent training programmes aimed at building a 5G-ready workforce and the creation of collaborative ventures between 5G-focused tech companies and corporates.

Singapore is definitely making the right move to ensure that the transformative impact of 5G can be wide-reaching. However, that cannot happen without first establishing a standalone 5G infrastructure.

Standalone architectures – the key to fully realising 5G’s potential

The acceleration of cellular technologies has typically been dependent on the development of standards. These are essentially the blueprints for complex radio systems and networks that can power mobile communication and device connectivity. But, in a historical first, leading standards’ bodies have designed next-gen networks – both 5G and beyond – with industrial use cases in mind. 

Currently, there are two paths to 5G deployment: via either non-standalone (NSA) or standalone (SA) architectures. 

Firstly, NSA architectures can be leveraged for quicker 5G deployment as they can use existing 4.9G or LTE core infrastructures. For enterprises, an NSA architecture would give them the benefit of higher speeds for numerous applications.

On the other hand, 5G SA requires deploying the complete 5G infrastructure which includes the 5G New Radio (NR) and the 5G core, but there is a more rewarding flipside – enterprises can tap into the full benefits of 5G architecture, including key capabilities such as ultra-low latency for critical machine communications and support for massive internet of things (IoT) integration, in addition to higher speeds. 

Also, with 5G SA architectures, enterprises would only need one spectrum band, as they do not rely on any 4.9G/LTE capabilities. This is particularly important for countries like Singapore where space for physical infrastructure development will only become more limited in the future. Hence, it’s no surprise that the nation has chosen to go with the SA route, which will have the added benefit of ensuring that as many enterprises as possible can benefit from 5G once it is deployed. 

Exciting 5G opportunities for Singapore’s enterprises

The global business environment is always in flux and the past year clearly demonstrated how economic status quos can be disrupted without warning. Uncertainties are always abound and to avoid a repeat of the historical recession the country is still reeling from, the nation’s enterprises must be more resilient and agile. 

There will be pain points to overcome, but opportunities are always abound in any crisis – and today’s fast-evolving economic environment has presented enterprises with new demands which can be met with 5G.

Singapore recently unveiled its 10-year “Manufacturing 2030” plan – which focuses on increasing the sector’s output by 50 percent and contributing 20 percent towards the national GDP – transforming the manufacturing sector is absolutely critical. In a survey of 600 manufacturers , 92 percent of respondents are considering 4G or 5G wireless technologies to improve the flexibility and agility of their operations. 

This is as the days of inflexible, immovable, locked-in linear production lines, and inaccurate asset tracking are over. The ‘factory of the future’ will instead see people and machines working safely together to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and produce goods in a way that meet carbon neutrality goals. With the right smart manufacturing network and expertise, plant operations and enterprise goals in the next industrial era can become a reality.

Another area where 5G can be transformative is the supply chain, which contracted in 2020 as the sector’s actors needed to adapt to their disrupted environment in light of COVID-19. Today, supply chains are now operating in a new normal, especially as global trade will continue to evolve along digital lines, but this requires the distribution of goods (often across borders) to be as efficient as possible. Singapore – as it seeks to continue maintaining global supply chain excellence – can leverage technologies like IoT and machine-to-machine communications to digitise supply chain capabilities. This can only happen with 5G networks that are low-latency, ultra-fast and ultra-reliable.

But Singapore isn’t just looking at transforming its industries; it is placing equal importance on sustainable city development, namely via the recently unveiled Singapore Green Plan 2030. To help realise this ambition via game-changing technologies like 5G, the country seeks to increase the use of renewable energy sources amongst businesses. Beyond environmental considerations, the country also plans to use 5G to revamp its urban infrastructure, as part of a multimillion-dollar investment into smart city technologies.  

On all these fronts for 5G applications, The Singapore Government had been taking the leadership role. Still, effective commercialisation – which depends on the effective proliferation of 5G services by consumers, enterprises and industries – also rests on CSPs. It is hence critical that CSPs act as active industry enablers by becoming a Service Provider as a Partner (SPaaP) to help facilitate the broader delivery of 5G services across myriad industries and verticals.

A taste of what’s to come

The aforementioned use cases are just the tip of the iceberg of how transformative 5G can be for the enterprises and industries in Singapore. They can serve as examples of how the nation can build the future underpinned by stronger socio-economic resilience and sustainability. With the nation already setting a clear timeline for nationwide 5G rollout, it won’t be long before more people in the country can also tap into the benefits of 5G. 

For Singapore, the future of its enterprises is just around the corner. The establishment of SA 5G networks will be the catalyst in allowing more businesses to leverage the fast and consistent connectivity needed to accelerate broader innovation, for both themselves and the nation at large.