IMDA regulations have been instrumental in advancing the development of 5G networks in Singapore. The rapid growth in mobile data traffic and consumer demand for enhanced mobile broadband experience has led to an increasing emphasis on the upcoming fifth generation of mobile technology (“5G”). Since 2013, the wireless community has begun both regulatory and commercial preparatory activities to advance 5G technology development.
On the policy and regulatory front, IMDA released the Second Consultation on 5G Mobile Services and Networks (1.31MB) on 7 May 2019, setting out Singapore’s overall 5G vision and strategy, as well as the proposed policy design and regulatory frameworks to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks. The decision has been issued on 17 October 2019, when IMDA will be facilitating two 5G nationwide networks as a start, with two optimally sized spectrum packages to deliver full-fledged 5G capabilities. The allocation of spectrum for nationwide deployment will be done via a call for proposal (“CFP”) approach.
The industry has also been preparing itself for 5G by conducting trials to better understand how 5G will work in a real-world environment and the potential benefits for different industry sectors. IMDA regulations have facilitated these 5G trials by waiving the frequency fees for interested companies since May 2017. The period of waiver was originally until 31 December 2019.
Extension Of Waiver Of Frequency Fees
As highlighted in the Second Consultation on 5G, IMDA will continue to lower the regulatory and cost barriers with the intent of encouraging the industry to trial 5G capabilities in Singapore by extending the frequency fee waiver period for 5G trials. This initiative is in line with IMDA's overall strategy to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks in Singapore.
Companies interested in conducting 5G trials may continue to utilise the existing IMDA Technical Trial (“TT”) and Market Trial (“MT”) framework. Broadly, TT may be conducted for the purpose of equipment testing and R&D for any telecommunication service, while MTs may be conducted to assess the commercial potential of a new technology, service or product that is not commercially deployed or offered in Singapore. As such, TTs must be on a non-commercial basis, i.e., trial participants shall not be charged for any service or equipment made available to them during the trial. On the other hand, under the MT framework, operators may commercially charge participants for trial services.
Eligibility For Waiver Of Frequency Fees
Frequency bands that continue to qualify for waiver of frequency fees are:
|1 – 6 GHz||3400 – 3650 MHz (3.5 GHz)*|
|Above 6 GHz||24.25 – 27.5 GHz (26 GHz)
27.5 – 29.5 GHz (28 GHz)
|* IMDA may subject trials involving the use of spectrum from 3600 – 3650 MHz to stricter parameters and closer monitoring requirements to prevent interference with the satellite systems as the latter are still in the midst of taking protective measures against interference.|
The use cases of any proposed trial should fall under one of the three categories defined by ITU-R for 5G technology, and IMDA will adopt the 5G technical performance parameters as a guide when reviewing the applications (please refer to Annex (373.63KB) for further details).
Applicants are required to partner with at least one of the four mobile network operators (“MNOs”). For 5G trials conducted without the involvement of any MNO, IMDA will assess the eligibility for frequency fee waiver on a case-by-case basis.
Period Of Waiver
IMDA will extend the waiver of frequency fees for both TT and MT trials until the commencement of the spectrum rights in relevant spectrum bands. The 3.5 GHz spectrum rights will commence from 2021, after completion of the migration exercise of Fixed Satellite Service users. As such, the period of waiver for 3.5 GHz band will end on 31 December 2020. For the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands, the mmWave spectrum rights will commence in 2020 after the CFP has concluded. Accordingly, the period of waiver for 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands will cease upon the commencement of mmWave spectrum rights.
As highlighted in the Decision Issued by IMDA on the Policy for 5G Mobile Networks and Services (966.09KB), IMDA will allow trials conducted under IMDA’s 5G Grant Programme using the mmWave band to continue until December 2020, and trials using the 3.5 GHz band to continue until June 2021. Correspondingly, the frequency fee waiver period for the 26/28 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands will be extended until 31 December 2020 and 30 June 2021, respectively, only for trials conducted under IMDA’s 5G Grant Programme. This move demonstrates IMDA's commitment to encouraging innovation in the telecommunications industry while ensuring that regulations are in place to manage the use of these valuable resources.