Smart Nation Programme
In 2014, the Singapore government officially announced its vision to transform Singapore into the world’s first ‘Smart Nation’. The Smart Nation Programme seeks to improve the quality of life for individuals and business opportunities for enterprises by harnessing the full power of information and communications technology, networks and data on a nationwide scale. Following the launch of the Smart Nation Programme, the Singapore government has introduced various initiatives to realise its vision. Since 2017, the Smart Nation Programme is centrally coordinated by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group under the Prime Minister’s Office, and supported by other government agencies.
One of the key initiatives of the Smart Nation Programme is the Smart Nation Platform (SNP), which is a key piece of infrastructure that will support the Smart Nation vision, by bringing together a nationwide sensor network and data analytics abilities. The key elements in the SNP include a nationwide communications and sensor network, as well as a Smart Nation Operating System. The operating system will undertake functions such as sensor management and facilitating the exchange of sensor data.
Another initiative that the Singapore government is exploring is the concept of a nationwide ‘HetNet’, which will allow devices to stay seamlessly connected throughout Singapore by hopping automatically across wireless networks, such as cellular and Wi-Fi networks. In this regard, the IMDA is actively working with local mobile network operators and other industry players to conduct trials to validate technologies and capabilities of HetNet.
In line with Singapore’s vision to become a Smart Nation, the Internet of Things Technical Committee has also developed four sets of technical standards to facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability of devices. These are the ‘Technical Reference for Sensor Network for Smart Nation (Public Areas)’ (first published in 2014), the ‘Technical Reference for Sensor Networks for Smart Nation (Homes)’ (first published in 2015), the ‘Technical Reference for Internet of Things Reference Architecture for Smart Nation’ (first published in 2016) and the ‘Technical Reference for Internet of Things Information and Services Interoperability for Smart Nation’ (first published in 2016).
In 2017, the IMDA issued the following two sets of technical specifications that govern telecommunication equipment intended for sale and use in Singapore: ‘Technical Specification for Dedicated Short-Range Communications in Intelligent Transport Systems’ (published in October 2017) and the ‘Technical Specification for Internet of Things’ (published in November 2017).
On 21 July 2017, the IMDA issued a Call for Submission for Digital Platforms to gather industry proposals from industry partners on solutions to catalyse the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science through platform-driven ecosystems. In its media release, the IMDA stated that it is looking to drive Singapore’s progress towards a digital economy for a Smart Nation, by collaborating with industry to drive sectoral digitalisation and catalyse the adoption of disruptive technologies. In this regard, the IMDA stated that it believes that the adoption of AI and data science will be a cornerstone of sectoral digitalisation.
Entry of new mobile network operator into mobile market
On 14 December 2016, following a competitive auction process, TPG Telecom Pte Ltd (TPG Telecom) was announced as the winning bidder of the right to be Singapore’s fourth mobile network operator (MNO). The entry of a new MNO was part of the IMDA’s 2016/2017 spectrum allocation exercise, in which a total of 235MHz of spectrum was available for bidding, for the provision of 4G and IMT-advanced services. This comprised:
- 2 × 45MHz in the 700MHz band;
- 2 × 30MHz in the 900MHz band;
- 40MHz, unpaired, in the 2.3GHz TDD band; and
- 45MHz, unpaired, in the 2.5GHz TDD band.
This included spectrum that will be freed up upon completion of the digital TV switchover and the switching off of analogue TV signals (see question 24).
Notably, the IMDA had decided that, as part of the spectrum allocation exercise, it would implement a framework to facilitate the entry of a new MNO into the Singapore market, in order to enhance innovation and competition in the mobile market. In this regard, the 2016/2017 spectrum auction was conducted in two stages: a new entrant spectrum auction (NESA), which was only open to qualified bidders (ie, potential new MNOs) who were not incumbent MNOs and not an associate of any incumbent MNO or of another qualified potential bidder; and a general spectrum auction (GSA), which was open to the incumbent MNOs and the successful bidder from the NESA. Potential new MNOs who were interested in participating in the NESA were required to participate in a pre-qualification exercise before they were allowed to participate in the NESA, in order to ensure that they are serious and possess the requisite capabilities to deploy the relevant networks. Following the pre-qualification stage, two successful applicants, MyRepublic and TPG Telecom, were allowed to proceed to the competitive bidding round in order to decide which of them would become Singapore’s fourth and newest telco. The successful new entrant bidder, TPG Telecom, made the winning bid of S$105 million and has been provisionally allocated 60MHz of spectrum (comprising 2 × 10MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz band and 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz TDD band) to establish a nationwide 4G network. TPG Telecom will serve as Singapore’s fourth MNO and will compete alongside the three incumbents in the mobile services market.
In accordance with the terms of the auction, TPG Telecom will be required (among other regulatory obligations) to roll out its network for nationwide coverage (except road tunnel, in-building service and underground MRT stations/lines coverage) by 30 September 2018, road tunnel and in-building service coverage by 30 September 2019, and underground MRT stations/lines coverage by 30 September 2021.
Bidding for spectrum in the quantity stage of the GSA took place between 30 March and 4 April 2017. Four parties, comprising the three incumbent MNOS and the new entrant, participated in the GSA, in which a total of 175MHz of spectrum was available for auction. At the conclusion of the GSA’s quantity stage, a total of S$1.14 billion in winning bids had been received by the IMDA.
Subsequently, the assignment stage of the GSA for the 900MHz band and 2.5GHz band took place between 12 April and 19 May 2017. The IMDA will conduct the assignment for the 700MHz band nearer to the commencement date of the 700MHz spectrum rights.
The fourth mobile network operator is expected to launch services in the second half of 2018.
Infocomm Media Industry Transformation Map
On 3 November 2017, the IMDA released the Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the Infocomm Media (ICM) sector, outlining strategies to prepare Singapore for the digital economy. The ITM aims to grow the ICM industry’s value-add to the Singapore economy by around 6 per cent annually and expects the industry to employ more than 210,000 workers and create more than 13,000 new professional, managerial, executive and technical jobs by 2020.
The ITM sets out three key thrusts:
- firstly, investing and building capabilities in four frontier technologies, namely:
- AI and data analytics;
- immersive media; and
- Internet of Things;
- secondly, strengthening the core of the ICM sector and preparing the next generation of ICM professionals and companies for future jobs and business opportunities; and
- thirdly, guiding companies and workforce from other sectors in adopting digital technology to improve productivity and efficiency.
In this regard, the IMDA is working with various sectoral agencies to develop Industry Digital Plans to guide small and medium enterprises in technology adoption.
New proposed Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme
On 17 January 2018, the IMDA commenced a public consultation exercise to seek public feedback on its proposed Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme. The consultation exercise closed on 21 March 2018.
The proposed Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme will make it mandatory for certain designated or declared licensees to participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) with eligible customers. In its public consultation document, the IMDA proposes to require the participation of telecommunication and subscription TV service providers that have direct billing relationships with eligible customers for the provision of telecommunication and subscription TV services (service providers).
The proposed Telecommunication and Subscription TV Mediation-Adjudication Scheme will include all telecommunication and subscription TV services for which a consumer would enter into service agreements, recurring billing arrangements or incur one-off charges with service providers. Eligible services are proposed to include: mobile services, fixed-line broadband internet access services, fixed-line services, subscription TV services and fibre connection services. As of the time of writing, the IMDA has yet to publish its final decision and its response to the feedback received.
Development and deployment of 5G mobile services and networks
On 23 May 2017, the IMDA issued a consultation paper entitled ‘5G Mobile Services and Networks’ to seek views on various aspects of 5G technology development and spectrum requirements, in preparation for the adoption of upcoming 5G mobile technologies (5G Consultation). The comments are being sought by the IMDA in order to develop policies to facilitate the deployment of more innovative and advanced mobile technology, networks and services in Singapore. Broadly, the IMDA seeks the views and comments of the industry and members of the public on the following non-exhaustive list of areas:
- 5G technology and use: among other things, the estimated timeline for the deployment of 5G, what the key technologies for 5G are, and whether current regulatory frameworks sufficiently facilitate the deployment of such technologies.
- Below 1GHz frequency bands: among other things, whether there is a need for further spectrum below 1GHz to be identified and released for mobile services.
- 1-6GHZ frequency bands: among other things, the frequency arrangement that is suitable for adoption in Singapore for the L band, the timeline for access to the L band and the availability of the equipment, whether all of the 91MHz spectrum in the L band should be allocated for IMT to address Singapore’s data demand and growth, and whether there are other frequency bands in the 1-6GHz frequency band that the IMDA should consider for IMT/5G.
- Above 6GHZ frequency bands: among other things, the role mmWave bands will play in delivering 5G technologies, the amount of spectrum required in the mmWave spectrum bands to meet 5G applications that will require higher bandwidths and the specific mmWave bands that should be a priority in Singapore for IMT services.
- Future spectrum estimation: among other things, the estimated spectrum demand of 3,360MHz by 2025 and whether this estimate is realistic, and whether mmWave spectrum should be provided earlier than 2022 for commercial network deployment.
- Use of licence-exempt spectrum: among other things, whether there is a need for further technical requirements and regulatory measures to facilitate the sharing of licence-exempt spectrum in an efficient and fair manner.
The 5G Consultation closed on 21 July 2017. As at the time of writing, the IMDA has not issued its final decision and response to the feedback received. On a related note, the IMDA announced that as of 23 May 2017, it would be waiving frequency fees for 5G technical trials and market trials with immediate effect until 31 December 2019, to promote greater technological innovation and allow more time for such trials to be conducted after the release of the first phase of 5G standards, which is expected to be in mid-2018.
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