A cameraman records during Huawei stream product launch event in Barcelona, Spain February 24, 2020

Huawei left playing second fiddle in Singapore 5G rollout

Image credit: REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

The city state’s largest mobile network operators have decided to work with Nokia and Ericsson on their 5G rollouts, leaving Huawei playing a smaller role in the future of Singapore’s mobile networks.

While some governments have restricted the involvement of Huawei and other “high risk” vendors in their 5G networks, Singaporean authorities have permitted operators to pick their own vendors. S Iswaran, minister for communications and information, said that following this path had led to an “an ecosystem where there are diverse players”.

Iswaran said: “We have a robust process spelling out our requirements in terms of performance, security, and resilience. There is a diversity of vendors participating in different parts of the 5G ecosystem and […] there remain prospects for greater involvement in our 5G system going forward.”

The Singaporean telecoms regulator has formally awarded 5G licenses to operators, following their selection of preferred frequency spectrum lots and vendors earlier this year. It awarded just two licenses to build standalone networks.

M1 and StarHub were jointly awarded a 5G license as the Joint Venture Consortium. They have selected Finland’s Nokia to build its periphery radio access network and have indicated that Nokia is also its preferred candidate to build its core and mmWave networks. However, the Consortium did not rule out working with some Chinese suppliers; they are exploring using Huawei and ZTE products for other parts of its 5G infrastructure. M1 will also work with Huawei (among other partners) to deploy local networks.

Singtel, which has also been awarded a license to build a standalone network, is in talks with Sweden’s Ericsson to provide its radio access, core and mmWave networks.

The two standalone networks will be rolled out beginning in January 2021.

TPG Telecom – which has a smaller presence in Singapore – missed out on its bid to build a standalone network. However, it has been allocated the remaining mmWave spectrum to roll out localised 5G networks. Iswaran said that TPG Telecom will use some Huawei equipment.

Singapore requires operators to deploy ultra high-speed mobile internet coverage for half the city state by 2022, with full island-wide coverage by the end of 2025.

There is a very limited choice of vendors of 5G equipment, with Huawei considered an attractive choice due to its sophisticated yet relatively low-cost technology. However, Huawei – the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer – is at the centre of trade disputes between China and the US, two of Singapore’s largest trading partners. The US government has put increasing pressure on its allies to exclude Shenzhen-based Huawei from their 5G infrastructure on the basis of national security concerns.

Huawei has denied all allegations that its equipment could be used as a tool for government surveillance.

Earlier this month, all three major Canadian mobile network operators elected to use 5G equipment from Nokia and Ericsson, effectively shutting Huawei out of the country’s 5G infrastructure despite the Canadian government having not reached a final decision on whether Huawei should be banned as a 5G vendor.

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