SINGAPORE (June 27): Singapore wants to test out its 5G potential with a starting budget of $40 million that will be distributed over a year, with telco operators Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) and M1 among the first appointed to run pilots on the next generation high-speed mobile internet.

Unveiling the nation’s 5G plan at the fifth annual Innovfest Unbound event on Thursday, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran says the Republic has identified six clusters for 5G applications that can generate the most global export value: maritime sector, urban mobility, smart estates, manufacturing, as well as government and consumer applications.

Singtel and M1 were roped in through a tech call by IMDA and PSA International to boost productivity in the maritime industry.

The trials will take place in the PSA living Lab in Pasir Panjang Terminal from the third quarter of this year and will last for 18 months.

Some of the pilots involve remote operation of cranes, equipment and vehicles. If successful, these systems could be a boon to the new Tuas mega port that will open starting 2021.

“There are few key features that are important to the port operations. The first is the ability to visualise things remotely through video. So the video up-link is important and 5G enables that. Secondly, it is the ability to have control such as operating equipment and cranes remotely,” says Andrew Lim, managing director of business group at Singtel, on the sidelines of the event.

M1 says it will be studying whether 5G network infrastructure can support tele-remote controlled equipment and enhance autonomous vehicles in the port. The spokesperson adds that the telco is also actively seeking partnerships to develop 5G applications.

There are also other initiatives to support Singapore’s 5G ecosystem.

Singtel, JTC Corporation and A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre are working together to use 5G technologies in its smart Model Factory in Jurong that will test out unmanned vehicles on factory space.

IMDA, Ascendas-Singbridge and JTC have also awarded $1.5 million for eight smart estates-related projects.

One of these projects, by GWS Living Art, will be using sensors and remote-monitoring systems to reduce resources needed to maintain public greenery. The company says its solution can reduce manpower need of up to 15%, which can translate to cost savings between 10% and 30%.

But there are challenges ahead to Singapore’s pursuit of 5G innovation.

The high-speed, low-latency network requires a lot of capital, according to observers. It also cannot work in silos, but require the cooperation of all stakeholders.

Singapore joins the list of countries rushing to get a headstart on 5G network.

South Korea claims to be the first country to commercially launch 5G mobile network services. Switzerland, Bahrain and the United Kingdom have all followed suit.

Meanwhile, the US and China have been locked in a tit-for-tat trade war to gain 5G supremacy over the other.

Singapore, when queried, reportedly said it is open to vendor diversity.