Disruption-free wireless network to be tested soon

A new wireless network will be tested, which aims to let consumers surf at high speeds without fear of disruptions.

HetNet, short for heterogeneous network, will be trialled by the Government in the Jurong Lake District in the second half of this year, and involves all three telcos - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - plus potential telco entrant MyRepublic.

The trial will take place in common areas such as lifts, Jurong East MRT Station and bus interchange, and pedestrian walkways.

If successful, it could, for example, allow users to continue conference calls on their mobile device as they enter a lift, without fear of the connection dropping.

The test is the first step towards the larger goal of enabling users to hop across 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks, regardless of who operates them, during disruptions or when surfing is slow on one network.

HetNet is part of the Government's long-term aim to ensure that wireless spectrum is maximised to meet rising mobile data demands.

"We want to see how we can be better prepared to have everyone connected everywhere all the time," said Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

The trial will evaluate the latest technology to ease network congestion.

However, Mr Khoong said users cannot hop across different telcos' networks yet due to the absence of a "robust commercial framework" for pricing, which IDA is counting on the industry to sort out.

So, if users are hit by a network disruption like the one that affected many Singtel 3G and 4G mobile data users yesterday afternoon, they cannot switch to another telco's network to continue surfing online, at least for now.

If successfully deployed, HetNet is expected to provide ubiquitous connection to applications like remote health-monitoring equipment or driverless vehicles.

A network of 1,000 sensors, including street surveillance cameras and computer chips for monitoring the safety of the elderly in their homes, is already being rolled out to pave the way for these applications.

A tender to operate the data centres that host critical government information supplied by these sensors has been awarded to Singtel.

Broadband provider MyRepublic said that it will invest $5 million in the HetNet system, which will also allow it to provide cellular services on trial.

Missing from the HetNet action is Singapore's other telco contender Consistel, a local tech company. MyRepublic and Consistel have submitted a bid to IDA for the fourth telco licence, but the authority has yet to announce its decision.


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