StarHub looking beyond eMBB to 5G for URLLC
With 5G on track to launch in Singapore and 2020, the three carriers are waiting for state regulators to finalize spectrum allocation before moving forward with plans to bypass non-standalone 5G networks like those in the U.S. and elsewhere in favor of standalone 5G. The country has developed a national 5G strategy with a strong focus on digitalization of industry, and operator StarHub sees the real opportunity in low latency, high-capacity use cases.
In the early days of commercial 5G where we are now, the latest generation of cellular is focused on providing enhanced mobile broadband connectivity to subscribers with compatible handsets. But as the 5G NR standard continues to develop, enhancements in reliability and latency are poised to open up new enterprise markets working to improve efficiency.
In its response to regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority’s call for 5G proposals, StarHub notes the “uncertain business case for 5G” and writes, “The benefits of 5G may not necessarily be about simply faster speeds. This is particularly true during the initial stages of 5G services, when the available spectrum for 5G will be relatively limited. Rather, we see 5G’s promise of ultra-low latency and ultra-high capacity as enablers for unique use-cases that can greatly boost productivity and increase efficiency. For example, 5G could enable real-time connectivity between people, devices and machines that could assist in industries such as manufacturing and logistics.”
Beyond manufacturing and logistics, the operator specifically calls out:
- Smart seaports and airports;
- Transport systems and connected vehicles;
- Health care applications like remote monitoring and 3D imaging;
- AR/VR-based tourism experiences;
- Smart factories;
- Remotely-controlled drones;
- Cloud-based gaming
- Public safety;
- Fixed wireless access.
Speaking during the recent 5G Asia event in Singapore, StarHub CTO Chong Siew Loong acknowledged the wide scope of verticals 5G can address but noted that industries like mining, for instance, are not relevant in Singapore.
In a panel discussion on what the ‘killer’ 5G application in the Asia Pacific region might be, Loong said, “I don’t think there will be one or two killer apps. I think a lot of these services go back to digitization.”
5G for fixed wireless access
In alignment with StarHub’s plan, he also mentioned fixed wireless 5G as a wired replacement, which is particularly interesting in Singapore where fiber-to-the-home or fiber-to-the-premises penetration is the third highest in the world, trailing just UAE and Qatar, according to a September 2018 ranking produced by the Fibre to the Home Council.
“We have fiber everywhere but there are also opportunities where you may not have fiber,” Loong said. “Singapore is always constructing,” he said, mentioning ongoing expansions to the nation’s pervasive Mass Rapid Transit system, which covers more than 100 route miles connecting some 185 stations. When the transport authority is building out a new station, fixed wireless can provide temporary connectivity “in a very cost effective manner” until fiber has been pulled.
5G-based fixed wireless can quickly set up a fiber-like link. “It can enable those [scenarios] in a very cost-effective manner. I always believe it falls back to basics while new services start to evolve.”
Given a regulator that plans to allocate spectrum for two networks in three mobile network operator market, StarHub also suggests other options like sharing network infrastructure and spectrum. The company part of its current network is “5G-ready.”