Singtel and a joint venture between StarHub and M1 were awarded licences to build two nationwide standalone (SA) 5G networks, with rollouts expected to start in January 2021.

The winners were each allocated 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum and will be required to cover at least half of Singapore by end-2022, then provide up to nationwide coverage by end-2025, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) stated.

Singapore will be among the first countries in the world to launch SA networks. The government held off releasing 5G spectrum until this year in order to move straight to the SA version from the start.

Other operators will have access to the networks through wholesale arrangements.

Tan Kiat How, CEO of IMDA, said: “The ongoing Covid-19 situation underscores the criticality of a robust digital infrastructure and the importance of timely investments to meet our national connectivity needs.”

The nationwide 5G licences were awarded through a call for proposal.

Tan said it received three proposals, with the winners selected based on a comprehensive assessment of how their manifestos would deliver the best outcomes for businesses and consumers in Singapore.

TPG Telecom, which won a spectrum auction open only to new entrants in December 2016 and recently launched service, was the other bidder.

IMDA said the joint venture between StarHub and M1 will deploy and own key parts of the 5G network, leasing access to the two operators which will continue to operate separately and provide retail services to customers.

The nationwide 5G networks will be supplemented by localised mmWave deployments providing high-capacity hotspots, allowing all operators, including TPG Telecom and MVNOs, to offer next-generation services.

Singtel, StarHub and M1 also will each be assigned 800MHz of mmWave spectrum.