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Feature Articles

Interview with M1: Not alone in its 5G standalone journey

By Liu Hongzuo - 31 Jul 2021

About M1’s 5G SA network

Note: This feature was first published on 27 July 2021.

M1's engineers toiling behind the scenes to bring up its 5G networks. Image credit: M1.

The telco arms race to win consumer trust and subscription is a long-standing battle between our Big Three brands, and it's further complicated by the appearance of MVNOs and a relatively new fourth telco with generous mobile data bundles to boot. 

M1 is far from alone when it comes to leveraging on 5G to tip the scales. Like the others with 5G licenses, the orange camp is just one of the three major telco networks to offer 5G NSA, and now 5G SA, in light of their latest announcements. What each telco can do with their respective 5G networks will determine how competitive they can be for the foreseeable future, especially since data usage is no longer a luxury to the average Singaporean. 

Denis Seek, Chief Technical Officer at M1.

We’ve had the opportunity to glean some perspectives from Mr Denis Seek, Chief Technical Officer at M1, about what the company believes it can do differently for 5G. We also spoke about some of the challenges they’ve faced or will face, as a telco delivering connected experiences to even more connected customers. 

We've split M1's thoughts around 5G into three core sections - first, about M1’s 5G SA network, followed by M1’s treatment and understanding of its mobile network users feedback, and finally, M1’s bigger picture on 5G for Singapore.

Photo by Shiwa ID on Unsplash.

About M1’s 5G SA network

We've seen local telco brands pushing out 5G non-standalone (NSA) and 5G standalone (SA) at different times, despite IMDA issuing the 5G license simultaneously to all winning bidders. What are some of the challenges M1 faced in bringing both 5G SA and 5G NSA to consumers?

Shortly after receiving our 5G license last year (2020), we quickly rolled out M1’s 5G NSA network, which leveraged our 4G network infrastructure to deliver some early 5G capabilities. 

After being awarded our C-band at the beginning of this year, we have since implemented a completely new network design and standalone architecture that operates independently of the 4G and 5G NSA network infrastructure to deliver an enhanced and secured suite of capabilities as part of the 5G SA experience.

To differentiate ourselves, M1 chose to roll out our 5G SA services when the ecosystem is truly ready for it, and that requires several months of thorough network-device interoperability tests. Despite being launch-ready earlier, we wanted to ensure that we had the proper infrastructure to provide a wider coverage area (better than our NSA coverage) and compatible handsets that can run on commercial software instead of beta version's software. 

 

Does M1 and StarHub jointly winning a 5G bid affect the quality of 5G networks offered in either camp?

The synergy between M1 and StarHub has enabled us to deploy the 5G SA radio network infrastructure much faster and more efficiently. In addition, M1 differentiates its service offering by riding on our latest cloud-native 5G core network and newly launched cloud-native digital platform to offer flexible, unique made-to-measure 5G offerings and best-in-class services to our customers. 
 

How is M1 going to roll out 5G SA to tricky networking areas, like the underground, in-buildings, and other non-residential or business areas? 

At launch, our 5G SA network will cover about 50% of Singapore, including the CBD and major residential areas, and we target to increase it to 75% by the end of 2021.

As with all network rollouts, we provide 5G in-building coverage to major shopping malls and offices progressively, prioritising indoor locations with high data usage. In addition, we are working closely with the authorities and the other telcos to provide 5G services for tunnels and underground areas.

 

Tell us more about M1’s 5G SA network itself. How fast is it, really?

M1’s 5G SA uses Band 78, on the 3.5GHz spectrum, while our 5G NSA uses Band 1 (2,100MHz).

In our tests, we achieved a download throughput of up to 1Gbps, upload throughput of up to 150Mbps, and network latency of 10-15ms on the 5G SA network in the live environment.

 

Other than its speed and latency, what other benefits can a consumer expect from M1 5G SA?

M1's 5G SA network offers 10x faster speeds and 50% more responsiveness than the 4G network, which enables connectivity to more devices without any reduction in speed or quality. 

This means that a higher influx of traffic is no longer a problem, and consumers can enjoy an extremely smooth mobile connectivity experience anywhere, anytime. These benefits also enable a range of innovative and diversified digital experiences such as:

  • 5G cloud gaming, where milliseconds can make a difference between winning or losing
  • Real-time interactive streaming and entertainment, where users can enjoy exclusive live concerts from the comfort of their own home
  • Immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications for next level uninterrupted gaming experience 

 

How else is M1’s 5G unique when compared against other telcos offering 5G here?

Our priority with the 5G network rollout is to ensure that our network is more accessible to more customers. Besides ensuring greater network coverage, quality and resilience, our customer-centric approach will allow our mobile users to enable 5G SA access in a quick and hassle-free manner.

Beyond this, M1 has been at the forefront of 5G development since 2018, developing a record of over 15 unique 5G trials, use cases and partnerships across the consumer, enterprise and government spheres, which have helped us create our 5G plans. We will continue to leverage our expertise and experience to create more made-to-measure offerings and products that differentiate M1 in the market.

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