Tuesday 29 March 2022

3G and 4G form the Backbone for Oman's 5G and Mobile Internet Growth

For many years Oman’s mobile market was a duopoly between the incumbent telco Omantel and its challenger Ooredoo Oman. In February 2021, Vodafone Group and Oman Future Telecommunications consortium secured a license to operate the Sultanate’s third network, with services being under the Vodafone Oman brand. 

Oman has a modern mobile sector which comprises substantial coverage of both 3G and LTE networks. In February 2021 Omantel launched commercial 5G services, while Ooredoo Group has a five-year framework agreement with Ericsson to develop its 5G platform across the Group’s ten markets, including Oman. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a spike in mobile data traffic, which prompted Omantel to upgrade a number of sites from 3G to LTE, as well as build a number of additional 5G sites.

While Oman’s fixed broadband infrastructure penetration is considered low, it is being improved with the building of fibre-based networks as part of Oman’s Vision 2040 program.

Oman has also established itself as an important communications hub in the Middle East, with access to numerous submarine cables including the 2Africa submarine cable, which should become available during 2023-2024. The 9,800km Oman Australia Cable running from Muscat to Perth, with the potential for a branch line to Djibouti, is making progress and is expected to be completed in December 2021. This additional infrastructure will provide considerable additional bandwidth.

Regarding bands: 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 900 and 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE started in 2013 on 1800 MHz (B3) on Omantel and Ooredoo and is available on prepaid. Ooredoo added 800 MHz for FD-LTE (B20) and Omantel started TD-LTE on 2300 MHz (B40) too.

According to the recent Open Signal report (which only surveyed Ooredoo and Omantel), these two operators were joint winners in four out of seven categories due to statistical ties. Of the two, Ooredoo has the most outright wins, being the sole winner of both the Games Experience and 4G Availability awards, while Omantel is the outright winner of the Download Speed Experience award.

Omantel is the Sultanate’s incumbent telecoms operator and primary provider of internet in the country on landline and ADSL. It's mostly state-owned and market leader in mobile networks too. In 2018 it reached 56% of the market. It has the best coverage and speeds and most customers. It's mobile branch is also known as Oman Mobile. Its 4G/LTE reaches most populated areas.

In June 2021 Omantel and Ericsson announced the completion of a 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) proof of concept (PoC) trial that will enable the Omani operator to meet the increasing demand for high-quality connectivity as well as facilitate new use cases. When rolled out, 5G mmWave will greatly enhance the user experience at mobile broadband hotspots and home broadband (fixed wireless access [FWA]), as well as enable low-latency industry applications like Augmented Reality (AR). The trial delivered multi-gigabit speeds with eight cell carrier aggregation functionalities using Ericsson’s Streetmacro 6701 mmWave solution and advanced 5G software features. The trial used a carrier bandwidth of 800MHz at 26GHz, with 5G in Non-Standalone (NSA) mode of operation.

Omantel has also formed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the South Korean operator LG Uplus to expand its 5G offerings using edge technology. Included within the scope of the MoU is Augmented reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Multiview, Timeslice solution and any potential business cooperation opportunities on XR platforms.

Ooredeoo is the 2nd provider in the country still giving good coverage in 3G and 4G: 3G 4G coverage maps. 3G covers 90% of the population and has reached 96% coverage of the Sultanate’s population with its ‘SuperNet’ 4G/LTE mobile network in 2019.

Ooredoo from Qatar has acquired the majority of the operator which was called Nawras before and renamed it to Ooredoo in 2014. It's the no.2 slightly behind Omantel at 46% share of the market in 2018. Generally Ooredoo has lower prices than Omantel at a slightly lower coverage.

In June 2021 Nokia and Ooredoo announced the introduction of super-fast and reliable 4G and 5G fixed wireless (FWA) access throughout Oman. Work to deploy the Nokia FastMile 4G FWA solution throughout the country commenced in February 2021. The scope of work initially saw 15,000 homes and businesses connected. In addition, 3,000 homes in city centers will soon get Nokia FastMile 5G FWA.

Vodafone has become the third operator in the sultanate. Vodafone Oman launched in January 2022. Their plans include bringing a next-generation 5G network and cloud services to Oman and then, its spokesperson said, moving into ecosystems that reach far beyond telecommunications.

Local reports suggest that the government initiated the bid for a new mobile operator to improve communication services, generate fresh job opportunities for Omanis, and enhance the country’s GDP. It’s not too surprising therefore that Vodafone Oman is highlighting a focus on employing Omanis and a local partnership ecosystem across key sectors. Vodafone will provide services through 3,500 authorized distributors and a comprehensive network. 

The entry of a new player could also usher in some price competition, potentially benefiting consumers in a market where, according to some reports, internet access is seen as being high compared to other countries in the region. The country, whose population is around five million, is said to have nearly 1.2 million postpaid and 4.7 million prepaid mobile subscribers.

Vodafone received the licence to operate in Oman in 2019. Formal approval of Vodafone as the third operator was given a year ago.

Vodafone Oman also recently signed an agreement with Ericsson to deploy, operate and maintain a new 4G and 5G core and radio access (RAN) greenfield network.

Ericsson will supply a complete core network solution based on Ericsson Cloud Core, NFVI and Cloud VoLTE as well as an end-to-end transport network solution. The greenfield network includes other Ericsson Radio System products and solutions such as the antenna-integrated radio and Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. The end-to-end solution range will deliver a cost-efficient, energy-efficient, and flexible layered architecture design to support 5G from network launch. Vodafone customers will also benefit from Ericsson Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services.

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Thursday 24 March 2022

3G and 4G continues to play an Important role for consumers as Vietnam starts focusing on 6G

Despite the pandemic-related mobility restrictions, Vietnam’s economy has continued to outperform the rest of the region in 2020 and 2021. Nevertheless, the telecom sector essentially spent most of this period in a holding pattern, focusing on maintaining service throughout the crisis while preparing for some major changes to come in the mobile market in 2022.

Both fixed-line telephony and mobile have experienced small drops in subscriber numbers since the start of the pandemic, but the similarities between the two markets end there. Fixed-line tele-density continued its downwards trajectory towards virtual oblivion, with just 3% penetration (around 3 million subscribers) at the start of 2021. The mobile market has lost about the same number of subscribers since the end of 2019, but has been sitting on much higher penetration levels around 130% for many years. Growth is expected to kick in again in 2022 following the anticipated launch of commercial 5G mobile services along with a range of government-led schemes to move consumers completely off 2G and 3G.

One example is the planned redistribution of GSM/3G bandwidth to LTE. In addition to propelling Vietnam into having one of the most advanced mobile markets in the world, this should also spur on the mobile broadband segment. With a penetration level of just over 70%, mobile broadband has considerable room to grow. Increasing economic prosperity coupled with the latest smartphone technology and networks should see mobile broadband underwriting the country’s telecommunications sector for at least the next few years.

Vietnam has a large percentage of broadband Internet subscribers, with rates among the lowest in the world. According to the Department of Telecommunications, under the Ministry of Information and Communications, as of October 2021, Vietnam had more than 18.8 million fixed broadband Internet subscribers. Around the same time, Vietnam had 71 million mobile broadband subscribers, with 89.81% prepaid and 10.19% post paid. In 2021, 4G subscribers accounted for 89.42% of total subscribers, 3G subscribers with 10.05%, and 5G subscribers 0.54%. The Internet infrastructure in the country is set to receive considerable investment in 2022 to meet users’ growing demands. Additionally, the government plans to focus on upgrading bandwidth and modem devices’ capacity, widening domestic and international bandwidth, and amending Internet standards.

There are 4 major GSM network operators in Vietnam: Viettel, Vinaphone, Mobifone and Vietnamobile.

Coverage and speeds are quite good for SE Asian standards: 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. Viettel and Vinaphone introduced DC-HSPA in 2014, 4G/LTE is just being launched on 1800 and 2600 MHz (bands 3 and 7) after Viettel, Vinaphone, Mobifone and Gmobile received licenses in 2016, Vietnamobile in 2017. The three state-owned operators aim to increase 4G/LTE coverage to 95% each in 2019.Vietnam is planning to switch off all its 2G networks by 2022.

Vietnam was expected to launch commercial 5G services by 2020, but due to the pandemic, there were multiple delays, and the rollout time-stretched has stretched till 2022. A thing worth noting here is that the telecom operators in Vietnam have agreed to share 5G infrastructure with each other. This will help the telcos in streamlining their capital investments related to 5G.

According to OpenSignal report in 2021 Viettel Mobile remains the dominant operator when it comes to Vietnam’s mobile network experience. Viettel Mobile successfully holds on to six outright wins, while MobiFone remains the sole winner of the Upload Speed Experience award.

Viettel is owned by the Ministry of Defense and thus the Vietnamese army. In 2020, Viettel held a market share of approximately 52.5 percent among all terrestrial mobile-cellular service providers in Vietnam, making it the leading provider of this service.

Samsung Electronics and Viettel have started 5G commercial trials in Da Nang, the largest city in the Central Vietnam region. In the trial, Viettel is using Samsung’s advanced 5G solutions to power its commercial network and to enable users in Da Nang to experience the full benefits of 5G services. 

The main mission of the 5G commercial trials is to build a digitalised society – Viettel has built 4G telecommunications infrastructure covering 97% of the Vietnamese population. The company also pioneers in providing the first 5G service in Vietnam. Up to now, 11 provinces/cities of Vietnam have 5G Viettel coverage (including Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Vinh Phuc, Dong Nai, Ho Chi Minh City, Ba Ria–Vung Tau, Binh Phuoc, Thua Thien–Hue and Da Nang). People in these areas can experience 5G for free with unlimited capacity, on many 5G support devices. The 5G Viettel network in the above areas has a stable data download speed of 600-700 Mbps, the highest of up to more than 1Gbps.

The Viettel has reached speeds of over 4.7 Gbps over a 5G network it researched, tested, and established. According to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC):
"This speed is 40 times higher than the 4G speed and more than two times the existing 5G speed, making Viettel one of the fastest 5G telecom networks in Asia,"
The telecommunications company headquartered in Hanoi used 5G ultra-short wave (mmWave) technology, and, together with Ericsson and Qualcomm, advanced E-Utra New Radio Dual Connectivity (EN-DC) technology to increase speed and extend 5G coverage.

Vinaphone is the second operator in Vietnam. It's owned by the government through the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group. It gives a good coverage and speed throughout the country. 4G/LTE has been started on Phu Quoc island in 2016 and is now rolled out nationwide.

The operator has signed an agreement with Finnish vendor Nokia  to improve its digital infrastructure. Under the partnership, the pair agreed to strengthen strategic cooperation to upgrade the capacity of VNPT’s backbone and core networks, develop 4G, 5G and IoT platforms, continue the commercial testing of 5G services, and cooperate in developing and applying new networking technology. 

Vinaphone also announced the pilot launch of a mobile money service across the country last year. The operator received one of the nation’s first trial mobile money licences from the State Bank of Vietnam on 18 November, alongside mobile operator MobiFone. The new service will enable customers of VNPT’s mobile unit VNPT-Vinaphone to deposit, withdraw and transfer money, as well as pay for goods and services.

Mobifone is the 3rd provider in the country and has become the first Vietnamese operator to be permitted to provide mobile money services in the country. MobiFone will provide mobile money services via a network of 600 transaction points. It aims to expand the service coverage to more than 10,000 transaction points via its partners and dealers. However, there is definitely demand for such services. There are nearly 125 million mobile phone subscribers in the country, but only 64 percent of adults have bank accounts. MobiFone’s service is expected to make e-payment more widely accessible, especially to people in rural, mountainous and remote areas.

Mobifone completed tests on a pilot 5G network in four cities, making it the second mobile player in the country prepared to launch commercial service.

In a statement the operator said it spent nearly a year deploying and evaluating the performance of 5G base stations in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hai Phong. It didn’t give a timeframe for when commercial service would begin. The testing showed the network was capable of delivering download data rates of about 2Gb/s, it said, noting it worked with major 5G equipment providers to assess the responsiveness and service quality of the pilot network.

Vietnamobile is the smallest of the 4 providers and the only one that is privately owned. It gives out the best prices in Vietnam and has a market share of around 10%.

In 2011 they started with 3G services in Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi, but since then 3G coverage has been expanded to Ba Ria-Vung Tau, An Giang, Khanh Hoa, Binh Thuan, Dong Thap, Long An, Dong Nai, Thai Nguyen and Binh Duong. In 2017 it covers 90% of the population in all 63 cities and provinces by 3G, but coverage is still lower as on the state-owned providers. They have been awarded a 4G/LTE license, but it's still much more restricted than on the state-owned providers.

Vietnam announced that this year, it plans to focus on 6G, the sixth-generation standard currently under development for wireless communications technologies. The government has set up a steering committee on 6G technology. It is responsible for putting forward orientations, mechanisms, and policies to bolster 6G research and development in the country.

The committee will monitor the 6G equipment and service standards, production, and commercialisation from international organisations around the world. It will combine research and forecast development trends from domestic and international telecommunications markets.  The committee will also devise a roadmap to study, manufacture, and commercialise 6G equipment as well as a roadmap for testing and commercialising 6G services. It will come up with solutions to support Vietnamese enterprises with the technology. Experts believe that 6G networks will transform the country. While the speed of 5G may reach 20 gigabits (Gbps) per second, a 6G network may achieve terabits-per-second speeds. Nations around the world, including the US, South Korea, China, Japan, and Finland have already joined the race for 6G network development.

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Sunday 20 March 2022

Vodafone to keep pushing for Open RAN

At Mobile World Congress 2022, Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer of Vodafone presented their vision and plan going forward in the 'Evolving the Network for the Future' session. On his LinkedIn post, he said:

I have just presented at Mobile World Congress #MWC22 and was delighted to announce that around 30% of our European network will run on #OpenRAN by 2030, following the first site going live in the UK last month. This will give us more flexibility and speed in how we operate.

It is also an example of how innovation is coming back to the network.

Disruptive technologies such as Open RAN, Network as a Platform and Multi-Access Edge Computing are perfect illustrations of how we are meeting demand for fast connectivity, as well as driving supply chain diversity, creating digital eco-systems, and inventing new industrial-strength applications.

Also, through our scaled platforms – M-PESA, IoT and now Digital Asset Broker (DAB) – combined with our geographical scale, we aim to help support the digital needs and ambitions of our customers and societies across Europe and Africa.

Around 30,000 sites across Europe will eventually use OpenRAN, with rural areas the first to benefit from the new 4G and 5G masts. When the roll-out reaches cities, the equipment from any existing 5G masts being replaced will then be reused elsewhere to reduce unnecessary wastage.

A press release release from Vodafone has details here

Their MWC22 page has more related news on this and other topics they discussed in Barcelona.

In another news Vodafone announced that seven UK communities is set to receive 4G based on Open RAN. Last year we wrote about their first Open RAN site with Samsung here. At that time it was assumed that Samsung is bring 2G (GSM) but Light Reading recently mentioned that Samsung hasn't got 2G. 

Parallel Wireless has been in Vodafone Turkey network for the last few years doing 2G and 4G as we detailed before. In a press release, Juniper Networks announced that it is working with Vodafone and Parallel Wireless conducting a multivendor RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) trial for tenant-aware admission control use cases. It says:

The trial, initially running in Vodafone’s test labs in Turkey and with plans to move into its test infrastructure, supports O-RAN interfaces and addresses the key business challenges faced by mobile operators around personalized user experience, viable revenue generation and reduction in both CAPEX and OPEX for 4G and 5G services.

The trial is based on an open, software-driven architecture that leverages virtualization to deliver more programmable, automated granular-by-user traffic management. The initial focus is on delivering tenant-aware admission control capability, enabling operators to personalize services and provide superior user experiences. Real-time tracking and enforcement of radio resources across the RAN enables mission-critical users – for example, hospitals and schools – to receive prioritized mobile data services delivery. This capability is enabled by Juniper’s rApp/xApp cloud-based software tools that manage network functions in near real-time, along with Parallel Wireless cloud-native Open RAN functions.

The trial’s design philosophy is focused on demonstrating the potential of enabling open, agile resource management and mobile data delivery in any software-driven RAN environment. This approach enables services and applications to be managed, optimized and mitigated automatically by the RAN, built on real-time data insights from its own performance.

All three organizations are active operators/contributors of the O-RAN ALLIANCE and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), underlining their shared commitment to industry innovation and standards.

Juniper’s RIC solution is architected as an open platform supporting open interfaces on the north bound and south bound side, enabling easier integration with Open RAN partners in the ecosystem. Juniper’s RIC platform will also enable easy integration of third-party rApps/xApps, using UI-based onboarding and deployment tools coupled with flexibility to select between either network-based or SDK-based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

Parallel Wireless brings cloud-native Open RAN solutions - which are now integrated with the leading-edge RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) based on O-RAN ALLIANCE specifications from Juniper Networks, giving operators more choices to build the best-of-breed RAN.

Juniper has a short RIC explainer video which is embedded below: 

Telecom TV reminds:

It’s no coincidence that Juniper is involved in Open RAN tests and trials in Turkey: It engineered its way into the RIC R&D scene by striking a deal in January 2021 to take the early RIC work undertaken by Netsia, the tech R&D unit at TĂźrk Telekom, and develop it further, all the while ensuring that the resulting platform would not only conform to Open RAN specifications but also be suitable for deployment by TĂźrk Telekom. As part of that deal, Juniper gained all the IPR and rights, and so has bene able to take it into tests with other operators at will.

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Thursday 17 March 2022

Iceland's Small but Advanced Mobile Networks

In our earlier post we pointed out that even though Iceland is a Nordic country, it is often ignored in comparisons to other Nordic countries. This is most likely due to small population as compared to the other Nordic countries. 

Iceland has one of the smallest yet most progressive telecom markets in Europe. The country in 2020 became the top in Europe for fibre penetration. It aims to provide a fixed broadband service of at least 100Mb/s to 99.9% of the population by the end of 2021, an ambitious target by international standards and one which it is likely to achieve given the progress which operators have made in extending the reach of fibre networks.

There is effective competition in the mobile and broadband markets, with a number of players having emerged to challenge the dominance of the two leading operators Síminn and Vodafone (Sýn) which have interests across the telecom sectors. The new entrant, Nova, has become the leading player in the mobile market and has quickly expanded its presence in the fixed-line segment, particularly in fibre.

The telecom market has shown some resilience in recent years following the significant economic downturn a decade ago, supported by continuing investment in mobile and fixed-line broadband infrastructure by operators and well as by the government’s Telecommunications Fund which is supporting Next Generation Access networks, particularly in rural areas.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 900 and mostly 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on all three providers on 800 (B20) and on 1800 MHz (B3) in the Reykjavik area. It's available on all providers for prepaid without a surcharge.

The island has a very good coverage on 2G and 3G given its topography and low population. Síminn is the market leader with the best coverage, followed by Sýn (still good) and Nova in 3rd place (mainly in the southwest).

SĂ­minn (aka LandssĂ­minn) is the old state telco which still has the best coverage and speeds throughout the country and is market leader in Iceland at slightly higher rates. LTE coverage is at 98% of population in 2017 on band 3 /1800 MHz only: 

Ericsson has signed a new five-year contract SĂ­minn. The collaboration entails further development of SĂ­minn's nationwide 4G network and accelerates SĂ­minn's 5G expansion. 

The journey to 5G began when the companies conducted 5G trials as a part of a network modernization initiative.

SĂ­minn will deploy 5G on 3.5-3.6GHz mid-band spectrum. The mid-band 5G deployment significantly enhances throughput to unlock the full potential of 5G. It can also be the key to unlocking a huge range of new opportunities in areas such as gaming, transport and manufacturing.

SĂ­minn aims to reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2022. SĂ­minn 5G's deployment  will begin by using of one of the legacy bands for low-band 5G, which enables wider coverage.

Iceland’s telecoms watchdog the Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI) has opened a public consultation on its plan to renew Vodafone Iceland’s (Syn’s) concession in the 3600MHz band until 31 March 2023. The ICOI received an application and a timed development plan from Syn for the renewal of the spectrum, with Syn committing to build 5G network in ten rural areas of the country (nine of which currently have no 5G access), deploy 40 5G transmitters and provide 5G to over 20% of the population. Interested parties are given until 24 February 2022 to comment on the plan.

Nova is the smallest provider and still reasonable, if you stick mainly the population center around Reykjavik, where it offers 4G/LTE too. It's very popular among exchange students flocking the country, because it gives out 1000 minutes of free calls and 500 free SMS per month among Nova customers. 4G/LTE is given out where available on LTE bands 3 (1800 MHz) and 20 (800 MHz).

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Thursday 10 March 2022

Singapore is a 5G leader in Southeast Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Singapore’s telecom sector in 2020, pushing down penetration rates and delaying several major infrastructure projects due to production and supply chain disruptions. The good news, at least, is that the overall effect on the sector has been relatively modest compared to other industries that effectively collapsed under the shutdown. Telecommunications remained an essential service during the period, with many people even needing to upgrade their services and plans to enable a shift to working and schooling from home. Singapore’s modern infrastructure and capacity weathered the storm well.

Most telecom operators suffered financially, with declines in revenue and profit as subscribers tightened their belts and reduced discretionary spending. The downturn was roughly in line with the retraction in the Singapore economy. All the major players continued to provide services, and to proceed with their investment programs, particularly in 5G networks (with a focus on standalone). The operators are voicing strong optimism for the coming months as travel restrictions are reduced and economic activity starts to bounce back. While forecasting should be viewed as a very risky activity in such uncertain times, there is a high degree of confidence across the industry that penetration rates in Singapore will quickly return to pre-Covid-19 levels.

Singapore continues to push ahead with its 5G rollout. 5G networks and services are expected to form the backbone of growth in the telco sector over the coming years as service providers seek new ways to engage customers in a market that is otherwise already saturated.

Singapore currently has 4 mobile operators, Singtel Mobile, StarHub, M1 and TPG Telecom (4G-only).

Singtel is the market leader, Starhub is in second position, M1 is in third and TPG is in fourth. Coverage and speed is excellent in the city on the three major networks. No 2G is available, 3G on 900 and 2100 MHz, and 4G/LTE has started on all three providers on 1800 MHz (band 3) and 2600 MHz (band 7). 900 MHz (band 8) and 2500 MHz (band 41) were later added, and from 2019 spectrum on 700 MHz (band 28) is added for 4G/LTE.

5G trials were started by Starhub in August 2020 on 2100 MHz (n1) and by Singtel in September 2020 on both 2100 MHz (n1) and 3500 MHz (n78), and quietly commenced commercial operations on the three major operators in early-2021 when 3500 MHz (n78) was also added for 5G for Starhub and M1, but is currently not open for prepaid.

The coverage and speeds in this city state are superb by all three providers. 4G/LTE covers all of the city outdoors and the MRT (= metro, subway). Note that for Singapore you'll need to bring a 3G/4G device as 2G is switched off. 2G/GSM networks of all three providers were shut down on April 1, 2017. There is no 2G coverage anymore. So bring a 3G or 4G/LTE capable device. The sale of 2G-only mobile devices has been banned from January 2017 or retailers could be given a penalty. 

Singtel Mobile by the Singtel Group is the biggest provider in town and has a market share of about 45%. The Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. is one of the largest mobile network operators in Southeast Asia. It has a coverage of 99% for 3G and 4G/LTE: Singtel 3G 4G. 4G/LTE is on 900, 1800 and 2600 MHz, bands 3, 7 and 8.

Singtel is ramping up its 5G standalone (SA) deployment in Singapore, by expanding the network and developing new 5G use cases in partnership with Ericsson. In a press release the Swedish vendor said it is powering Singtel’s 5G SA network with 5G radio access products and cloud-native dual-mode 5G Core network solutions. The pair hope to deliver high-quality connectivity for outdoor coverage in densely populated areas and help drive strong indoor-mall coverage across the city-state. Ericsson went on to say ‘the COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled the need for better connectivity indoors, due to the numerous travel and lock-down restrictions’. The deployment builds on a long-standing relationship between the two companies, including with Singtel’s initial wave of 5G rollouts.

In September 2021 Singtel confirmed that its 5G network now covers over two-thirds of Singapore, with new 5G sites added in densely populated areas like Choa Chu Kang, Punggol, Sembawang and Tampines. In addition, the mobile operator has expanded its 5G indoor coverage to more major shopping malls island-wide such as Funan, West Mall, Tampines Mall, Northpoint City and Waterway Point. In April 2021 Singtel revealed that as part of its 5G ‘push’, it had deployed hundreds of 5G SA sites across the city-state, in areas such as Orchard Road, the Central Business District, Harbourfront and Sentosa. With work ongoing to boost in-building coverage in Ngee Ann City and selected Singtel Shops across Singapore (having already begun the process at VivoCity), Singtel confirmed that in readiness for commercial launch, it had begun offering 5G SA compatible SIM cards. The cellco’s 5G SA sites run on 3.5GHz spectrum, enabling it to deliver ultra-fast speeds and swifter response times.

StarHub by local StarHub Ltd. is the 2nd provider in Singapore giving good speeds and coverage in 3G and 4G/LTE reaching a nationwide coverage. StarHub is the local partner of Vodafone and is the only provider to offer VoLTE (branded as HD Voice+) on prepaid. 4G/LTE is on 1800, 2100, 2500 and 2600 MHz, bands 1, 3, 7 and 41.  StarHub's 5G standalone network has also been very successful: 

 M1 (previously known as MobileOne) is the 3rd largest national provider in Singapore. Coverage on 3G and 4G is on par with the other two providers. 4G/LTE is on 1800 and 2600 MHz, bands 3 and 7.

 M1 launched its 5G Standalone network in July 2021 via what it terms ‘an exclusive market trial, allowing both its existing and new mobile customers to enjoy the enhanced benefits of the … technology’. In a press release the operator confirmed that customers can experience ‘true’ 5G by signing-up for a ‘5Go Plus Booster’ plan both online or in-store. As part of this, the carrier is running an exclusive launch promotion giving users ‘at least three months of free access to the True 5G experience, following which they can continue to enjoy the service at a discounted price starting at SGD5 per month, until the end of 2021’.

The operator’s new 5G SA network currently covers about 50% of the city-state including the Central Business District (CBD), Marina Bay Financial Centre, key town centres and high data usage areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Chinatown, Clementi, Orchard Road, Pasir Ris, Paya Lebar, Sengkang, Tampines and Woodlands. Going forward, M1 plans to extend coverage to 75% of Singapore by the end of 2021 with full coverage completed by the end of 2022 – eclipsing the regulator’s requirements of 50% coverage by that date.

In 2016 the bidding auction for a 4th operator was started. The winner was named with TPG Telecom from Australia, founded by Malaysian billionaire David Teoh. It was allocated spectrum in the unusual 900 MHz and 2300 MHz bands (8 and 40) to provide only 4G/LTE services which started in 2020.

According to Mobile World Live TPG Telecom has two years to reach 50 per cent coverage with an SA 5G network and five years for nationwide. It holds spectrum in the 900MHz and 2.3GHz bands won as part of its market entry in 2016. It has also been provisionally awarded 2 (two) 5MHz paired lots of spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band for a price of S$31m. 

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