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Singtel headquarters in Singapore (Photo: Singtel)
SINGAPORE: Local telco Singtel and networking giant Ericsson on Tuesday (Jan 27) signed a deal to collaborate on testing technologies for the deployment of 5G networks in the future.
Both companies inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore 5G networks and the possible applications that can be rolled out to meet the needs of consumers and industries. They will also study how the next-generation mobile network can support Singapore's vision of being a Smart Nation, according to its press release.
Both companies are to form teams to study potential 5G technologies that can be applicable in a local setting, such as those supporting Massive Machine Type Communications (MTC) and a cloud-based network, it added.
"We see 5G as a potential technology that will support very advanced communication needs in the future," said Mr Tay Soo Meng, Group Chief Technology Officer at Singtel.
"This MOU will be a five-year partnership and we will look at some exciting use cases like health, for driverless cars, for sports when you are playing football or basketball - you will be able to trace all your actions and you can look back and see the mistakes you have made. So these are some of the use cases that we are looking at."
Ericsson is not the only tech vendor the telco is partnering to explore 5G possibilities. Last November, Singtel inked a deal with Chinese IT company Huawei to launch a 5G Joint Innovation Programme, which will serve as a research platform for 5G mobile broadband tech.
However, just because 5G is beginning to be explored does not mean that existing 4G networks will be obsolete. Analysts said that 4G is still relatively new and has lot more room to grow in terms of application and usage before 5G is ready for the market.
Mr Naveen Menon, partner and head of communications for the media and technology practice at A.T. Kearny, said: "Consumers are getting used to the technology and are seeing that 4G is actually very helpful for their day to day needs. But you can imagine these technologies have a life-cycle of maybe seven to eight years. So 5G is really only mainstream if you like in 2020 and beyond.
"By all means, 5G will be useful and the applications, the hardware, the software and the consumer needs will evolve over time. But at this particular point in time, 4G has got still a lot of potential and a lot of applications that are still not being used by consumers. There's a lot of room still left to for mobile operators and content providers to capitalise on 4G technology."
5G commercial trials are only expected to begin in 2020, with still much to be done with regard to infrastructure requirements and back-end testing. StarHub and M1 said they will begin looking into 5G trials once international standards have been finalised.
Singtel is also a member of the Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Alliance, which is championing the finalisation of the NGMN 5G white paper that sets out parameters such as performance requirements, network architecture, spectrum and intellectual property rights. The paper will be presented at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in March this year, it said.