Announcements from Singtel and StarHub today suggest it will not be long before commercial customers can access their standalone 5G networks

Around a year ago, Singapore issued two nation-wide 5G licences, won by Singtel and a joint bid from M1 and StarHub, with the stipulation that they must begin rolling out standalone 5G in 2021, cover half the country with the technology by 2022, and all of the country by 2025.

Now, it seems that both parties are beginning to make good on their promise, both announcing today that they would soon begin service on their standalone 5G networks. 

However, the catch for consumers is that the 5G-ready smartphones currently on the market will require software updates from manufacturers before they are able to access services on these new networks. 

Singtel and StarHub have both posited separate solutions to this problem, at least in the short term. For now, Singtel is suggesting that want to test out the standalone networks register their interest via Singtel’s website. Following a new deal with Samsung that was also announced today, a number of registered customers will be selected to receive a 5G standalone SIM card, as well as a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G handset.

Singtel says it has deployed over 1,000 5G sites throughout the country.

StarHub, on the other hand, said that it would begin to issue suitable 5G SIM cards soon, with the registration fee waived for those customers joining or renewing their Mobile+ and Biz+ service plans. Customers with capable mobile phones will automatically switch over to the standalone network once it becomes available.

Thus, the majority of Singapore’s current 5G subscribers will have to wait for the requisite software update before they can enjoy the full perks of a standalone 5G network. 

Nonetheless, this development represents a significant milestone for Singapore, a first-world country that was notably slow at auctioning 5G spectrum. Now, with the burgeoning deployment of standalone 5G, the Asian nation has quickly risen to the top, joining the world’s 5G elite as one of the few countries to begin decoupling 5G from its 4G support.


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