At Singapore’s Pasir Panjang terminal, driverless vehicles are used to transport cargo within the port. Four out of 30 of these vehicles run on 5G, part of an ongoing trial which has had “promising” results thus far, according to the Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA).

“5G is a very exciting technology with unlimited possibilities,” says Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran. “It is important that those possibilities become realities through the partnerships between industry and the public sector.”

The Minister announced a new S$30 million (US$22.6 million) fund for businesses to create new commercial use cases for 5G. GovInsider spoke with him and IMDA’s Chief Executive, Lew Chuen Hong, to find out more.

Encouraging 5G commercialisation

Any Singapore-registered company can apply to use the fund to commercialise and deploy their 5G solutions. IMDA will waive up to 70 per cent of costs for successful applicants.

The agency launched a similar S$40 million fund (US$30.18 million) in 2019, but applicants did not need to have a commercialisation plan back then. “With the previous fund, we wanted to be an early adopter, to kickstart some of these networks and small-scale pilots,” says Lew.

But this new fund will drive the commercial adoption of 5G as Singapore prepares to launch two nationwide 5G networks, he adds. It will also spur new robotics, AI, and IoT applications.

The ongoing trial at Pasir Panjang terminal is jointly carried out by IMDA, telcos M1 and Singtel, PSA Singapore, and the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore. 5G’s lower latency has reduced the time taken for autonomous vehicles to respond to commands.

PSA plans to use 5G’s higher bandwidth to operate more than 2,000 autonomous vehicles simultaneously at the upcoming Tuas mega port. The current 4G network can only support around 300-400 vehicles at the same time.

This is a “very vivid example of how 5G will generate not just productivity gains, but also efficiency possibilities”, says Minister Iswaran.

5G-enabled workforce and infrastructure

As Singapore pushes ahead with its 5G drive, it has to ensure the workforce is “5G-enabled”, Minister Iswaran says.

IMDA has been working with Institutes of Higher Learning and its partners to equip 5,000 workers with relevant skills over the next three years, he adds.

Singapore must also ensure that its digital infrastructure is “well-equipped” for the possibilities of 5G. “We are on track to have nationwide 5G rollout by 2025, and 50 per cent coverage by the end of 2022,” Minister Iswaran says.

5G is set to open a new realm of possibilities for Singapore’s digital economy. The fund will help foster strong public-private sector partnerships and spark innovative uses of the technology.