Singtel turned to Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE to handle an upgrade of its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network, which the operator said could boost data rates by up to 200 per cent.

The vendors are working to deploy massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) on Singtel’s LTE-A network in the Marina Bay area. The operator appears to have set a tight deadline for the work, with plans to provide the enhanced data rates in time for Singapore’s National Day on 9 August.

Singtel Group CTO Mark Chong said the operator will combine recently acquired 2.5GHz spectrum with Massive MIMO “to expand our network capacity” during the national celebration and other key events in Marina Bay, including the forthcoming Formula 1 race on 17 September.

The operator acquired a block of 2.5GHz spectrum in April as part of a broader auction which also included blocks in the 700MHz and 900MHz bands.

In a statement, the operator announced the Massive MIMO deployment is a key step on its journey towards 5G.

Compatible base stations feature a large array of 64 antennas Singtel said deliver improved spectral efficiency and cell capacities by channelling signals to users’ specific locations rather than a broad geographic area.

Chong said the greater capacity will enable Singtel to “offer our customers an enhanced mobile experience”. The upgrade will allow the operator to satisfy spikes in network traffic typically experienced at events where large crowds gather.

More than 150,000 people are expected to attend National Day celebrations in the Marina Bay area alone.