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Singtel, Ericsson and Singapore Polytechnic charge ahead to open Singapore’s first live 5G test facility

By Vijay Anand - on 17 Jan 2019, 4:42pm

Singapore’s first live 5G test facility is now open at Singapore Polytechinc to foster 5G ecosystem growth

From left to right: Mr Martin Wiktorin, President and Country Manager for Singapore, Brunei & Philippines, Ericsson, Mr Soh Wai Wah, Principal and CEO, Singapore Polytechnic, and Mr Mark Chong, Group Chief Technology Officer, Singtel.

After launching Singapore’s first 5G pilot network at one-north in late 2018, Singtel and Ericcson once again joined forces; this time to step up the development of 5G ecosystem for business use cases. To facilitate this, they’ve partnered with Singapore Polytechnic to launch Singapore’s first live 5G test facility.

What is this 5G test facility about?

The facility, named 5G Garage, is connected to Singtel’s latest pilot 5G network located at Ayer Rajah and runs on 3.5GHz trial spectrum granted by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

A simplified diagram of Singtel's 5G pilot network and how the Ayer Rajah network interfaces with the core network. Note the use of Non-Standalone (NSA) network implementation, which is how most other 5G networks will first kick off.

The first-of-its-kind 5G collaboration between enterprise, industry and an institute of higher learning in Singapore, 5G Garage was officially launched at SP’s Engineering Show 2019. The three parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) encompassing the following strategic objectives:  

  • Build and operate a 5G facility where SMEs can develop and test 5G solutions to further drive digital transformation.
  • Co-develop and trial new 5G use cases for industries such as transportation, logistics, healthcare and manufacturing.
  • Develop and deliver 5G wireless technology curriculum for SP’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
  • Develop 5G capabilities of our workforce through quality training programmes.

Chief Executive, IMDA, Mr Tan Kiat How and Singtel, Ericsson and Singapore Polytechnic management at the opening of 5G Garage, Singapore’s first live 5G facility.

How is Singtel provisioning 5G coverage on Singapore Polytechnic's campus?

A helpful spokesperson from Singtel explained the 5G deployment and coverage specifics that's in place at Singapore Polytechnic, so here's a video clip of everything you need to know:-


Where is the second 5G base station that's helping with the on-campus 5G network trial?

The antennas are installed atop the Singtel Tetris building or also otherwise known as the Singtel Ayer Rajah Telecom Exchange that's behind Singapore Polytechinc.

There's a good line-of-sight from the 5G transmitters atop the Singtel Tetris building and the receiver in the foreground within the 5G Garage.

So it isn't using millimetre wave spectrum frequency?

5G will eventually tap into much wider network frequency spectrum across licensed, shared and unlicensed bands such as sub 1GHz (low bands), 1GHz to 6GHz (mid bands) and mmWave (high bands). At this juncture in its first wave of rollouts (and in many other 5G deployments worldwide), mid frequency bands will be used as approved by IMDA for the current 5G trial on the 3.5GHz spectrum.

How is the 5G momentum in general?

The 5G momentum is picking up with several ecosystem partners now on the 5G bandwagon and as witnessed from our Qualcomm Tech Summit 2018 reporting, many telcos worldwide are gearing up to deploy 5G NR networks in various forms from conducting large scale tests, to commercial services deployment.

In Singapore, 5G mobile data networks are on track for deployment by 2020 as shared by IMDA. And while there are several technical aspects that need to be tested and aligned across the mobile ecosystem before a 5G network can be officially deployed, there is still the question of new usage scenarios that will drive 5G adoption. Don’t get us wrong. 5G has several upsides across numerous industries, but many of the showcased visions can be achieved using today’s technologies across careful use of the right spectrums and equipment in 4G and advanced Wi-Fi standards. Autonomous drive systems, robotics and live feeds for mission critical needs are the same key areas that are being talked up for 5G but are currently serviceable on existing wireless standards. However, the difference is that there aren't many of these modern usage models that have been deployed; they exist but are in limited use and in the case of autonomous drive systems, still experimental. When these usage scenarios are widely deployed and used, that’s where 5G will really shine in handling many concurrent transmissions simultaneously while being able to connect to a massive array of sensors and devices at far lower latencies than now.

At the Singapore Polytechnic's 5G Garage, we were shown how response times differ from current 4G deployment vs. 5G NR use over the same test. Jitter isn't good for time critical applications such as wireless sensory based actions used in robotics and autonomous drive system's collision detection, among others.

How can SMEs trial 5G in the 5G Garage and help evolve new usage scenarios?

Singtel is the key stakeholder for this initiative and all related queries should be funneled to Singtel for further follow-ups.

How else is the new collaboration helping students and Singapore Polytechnic?

As part of the Singtel-Ericsson-SP collaboration, around 250 final-year students from the Diploma in Electrical & Electronic Engineering and Diploma in Computer Engineering will learn about 5G wireless technology and how to harness and apply it as part of their coursework. There will also be technology transfer from Singtel and Ericsson 5G experts to SP staff and students, through train-the-trainers, technical content sharing and advice on industry applications. Additionally, SP students in the Singtel Engineering Cadet Scholarship Programme will also have the opportunity to take up internships in the 5G Garage and develop solutions for real-life challenges.

A sample of student projects

For example, the students showcased a handful of projects that could one day take advantage of 5G such as the driverless electric car equipped with sensors to feel the surroundings, use machine learning for image/object classification and map out scenarios for ideal path planning:-

5G can even enrich the data obtained such as using live video feeds for cloud AI analysis to improve collision avoidance and having optimal speed control.

Yet in another example, a different group of students embarked on a campus security project called SP Secure which is based upon using intelligent autonomous drones around the campus that can react quickly to security threats by analyzing live video streams across camps security network, drone live streams and more. In such time-critical scenarios, 5G is the right connectivity glue to make it all a reality. Here's a video enactment that captures their intention perfectly:-

Some of the drones deployed in this project were based on the NVIDIA Jetson TX2 development kit for edge computing. The interesting tidbit is that if they could shrink all the compute needs to be no more than a small dongle-like module and rely on 5G for cloud or centralized computing on campus, the students could shave off 300 grams in weight of the drones and in return, get an hour and a half more flight time! We believe that might be possible real soon judging by the progression in the tech industry.

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