The Singapore regulator, as expected, has awarded its two 5G licenses to incumbent local operators.
One went to market leader SingTel and the other to a JV between the second- and third-largest telcos, StarHub and M1.
A bid from the newest operator, Australian-owned TPG, which had teamed up with a local conglomerate, was rejected.
However, it will be able to offer 5G service as an MVNO or through local 5G hotspots using mmWave, regulator IMDA said Thursday.
In a departure from earlier years, the licenses were awarded through a "beauty contest" process.
Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said: "Amid today's COVID-19 challenges, the investments in Singapore's 5G infrastructure underscore long-term business confidence in our economy, and will ready us for the eventual recovery to build a thriving digital future."
The proposals, submitted in February, were evaluated on network rollout and performance, the financial strength of each operator and spectrum price.
In another departure, the city-state will skip non-standalone 5G and go straight to the standalone version of the technology. Thus, while Singapore is behind neighboring states China and South Korea in debuting 5G, it will be at the forefront in standalone.
Winners will be able to roll out from January 2021, when the 3.5GHz spectrum becomes available. They will be required to provide coverage for at least half of Singapore by the end of 2022 and reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2025.
The two licensees will be assigned 100MHz of the 3.5GHz spectrum each, with a base price set at S$55 million (US$39.0 million).
StarHub and M1 plan to jointly build a 5G network but will offer services independently.
M1 CEO Manjot Singh Mann said the joint rollout would allow the company to share strategic resources in the development of 5G.
Besides the 3.5GHz spectrum, IMDA will also allocate 800MHz of mmWave spectrum to each of the four 4G operators to enable them to deploy localized 5G for retail services, the regulator said.
StarHub said it would use the mmWave frequencies to deploy non-standalone 5G.
The IMDA says the licenses are still provisional. To complete the licensing process, operators will need to select spectrum bands and to confirm "technical and legal matters," it said.
Singapore has one of the highest mobile take-up rates in the world, with 9.049 million services in a population of 5.7 million.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading