Singapore operator Singtel has launched its 5G Standalone (SA) network. Singtel has teamed up with Samsung, its official 5G SA launch partner, to provide selected customers with early access to its 5G standalone mobile network. Singtel customers can now access Singtel’s 5G SA network on Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G handsets, running a Singtel-exclusive beta release of Samsung’s 5G SA software.
Customers can register their interest at the Singtel website to get access to Singtel’s 5G SA network. According to Singtel, “customers with creative entries on how 5G will transform their lives” will be selected to receive a 5G Power Up kit that comprises a 5G SA SIM card, a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G handset and cool accessories.
Since September 2020, Singtel has been operating a 5G Non-Standalone (NDS) network under a market trial, offering 5G speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. Within a year of receiving its 5G license, Singtel reports it has activated 5G SA and deployed over 1,000 5G sites across Singapore. The operator has also rolled out in-building 5G, covering VivoCity and Ngee Ann City mall, and plans to continue to expand its indoor 5G footprint in the coming months.
Many MNOs in developed markets have devoted their energies to Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G rather than Standalone 5G, because NSA allows them to use their existing 4G/LTE infrastructure as the core of the 5G network. With NSA, operators can deliver high speeds to their customers without having to construct entirely new network architecture.
However, 5G SA—that is, a new, end-to-end 5G network with 5G core—allows for more advanced services and applications, such as complex IoT, smart cities, and smart factories. These kinds of services, which go well beyond traditional mobile telephony and mobile data, are of interest primarily to enterprise customers and hold out the promise of greater revenue in the future and more comprehensive customer relationships rather than the simple consumer-to-operator relationship.
There is no true dichotomy between SA and NSA; Singtel is working on both tracks and already has an NSA network in operation. By launching its 5G SA in partnership with Samsung, the operator is likely setting its sights on a different market with more sophisticated demands. However, the current offering is also being presented as something of value to the ordinary consumer. Having a beta version available on a trial basis should make uptake of the service more widespread, and the “creative entries” contest is intended to stimulate excitement and interest among ordinary users.
This strategy makes sense because the non-enterprise user can also benefit from some of the functionalities that SA enables, and because popularity among consumers can strengthen Singtel’s brand in general. And of course, as with any other network, the operator will want to maximize traffic on its 5G SA network, especially given that it is new.