Singtel launches 5G standalone (5G SA) network in Singapore

5G Power Up Kit by Singtel.
PHOTO: Singtel

It's here. Today (May 25, 2021), Singtel launched its 5G standalone (5G SA) network, taking both the telco and Singapore yet another step forward in the 5G journey.

According to Singtel, its 5G SA network has twice the responsiveness, 30 per cent faster uploads, better authentication and encryption capabilities, with even greater bandwidth - all when compared to 4G connectivity.

While Singtel didn't specify a new top download speed, we can expect its new 5G SA network to be blazing fast as it's operating on the 3.5GHz spectrum .

Singtel's 5G journey has been relentless since its consumer push for 5G in September 2020. It started with deploying 5G non-standalone (5G NSA) before setting up mmWave 5G in Orchard and sticking up indoor 5G coverage for malls .

Singtel offered trial boxes for small companies on the enterprise front to try implementing 5G into their workflow. The telco is also working with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services in 5G multi-access Edge Compute trials.

The rapid changes to Singtel's network have led to the telco revamping its bread-and-butter, contract-based mobile data plans.

In fact, the coming of Singtel's 5G SA was already hinted at since early May 2021, given that the telco was literally handing out (almost-free) 5G SA SIM cards. If you've not gotten your free 5G SA SIM card, don't forget to do it soon.

5G SA? 5G NSA? mmWave 5G? What talking you?

Singtel's indoor 5G coverage at VivoCity. 
PHOTO: Singtel

5G itself has gotten pretty convoluted as the networking and telco industry started to understand the challenges in bringing ultra-fast mobile network speeds to the masses.

The types of 5G we hear of refers to specific enabling of 5G technologies, and 5G networks are generally only seen as 'complete' when they have a mix of technologies and network flavours.

Commonly heard terms are 5G NSA, 5G SA, mmWave 5G, and sub-6 5G:

  • 5G NSA refers to 5G non-standalone, which is 5G technology that partially relies on existing 4G equipment. It's generally regarded as a quicker method to get lower 5G speeds to the masses.
  • 5G SA refers to 5G standalone. As the name implies, it's 5G connectivity that relies on made-to-spec 5G equipment. It takes longer to implement because of the infrastructure overhaul needed, but 5G SA offers access to the faster and more responsive 5G speeds we see bandied about.
  • mmWave 5G is 5G connectivity that uses a frequency band at or above 6GHz. For example, Singtel has one active mmWave 5G band at 28GHz.
  • Sub-6 5G is 5G connectivity below 6GHz. Singtel's sub-6 5G bands are 2,100MHz and 3.5GHz.

Does it matter? Maybe. As shared in a previous article, any Android smartphone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset would have a 5G modem covering both mmWave and sub-6 5G network bands, so the distinction becomes more immaterial for consumers as long as the technology keeps up.

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Singtel expedites 5G standalone network deployment, issues 5G SA SIM cards for free
Singtel expedites 5G standalone network deployment, issues 5G SA SIM cards for free

Within a year of receiving its 5G licence, Singtel has turned on 5G SA and deployed over a thousand 5G sites across Singapore in 'strategic' locations such as Orchard Road, the Central Business District, Marina Bay, Harbourfront and Sentosa, as well as major residential areas including Sengkang, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Jurong East, Woodlands, and more.

Singtel also said it would continue to expand its indoor 5G footprint beyond VivoCity and Ngee Ann City in the coming months.

“We are thrilled to introduce supercharged connectivity on Singapore’s most powerful 5G network. Our customers will be among the first in the world to enjoy the benefits that 5G SA can deliver. Wherever they are, consumers can stream 4K videos seamlessly, share favourite photos and moments with friends instantaneously, and enjoy lag-free gameplay and video conferencing. 5G SA will also fuel new innovations, being a key enabler of the digital transformation across industry sectors,” said Ms Anna Yip, CEO, Consumer Singapore, Singtel.

Registering your interest for Singtel's 5G SA preview

5G Power Up Kit by Singtel. 
PHOTO: Singtel

Singtel has partnered up with Samsung as its official 5G SA collaborator to give selected customers early access to this network.

Starting from today, customers can register their interest in trying out 5G SA at www.singtel.com/5GSAearlyaccess . Singtel will select customers with creative registration entries detailing how 5G will change their lives, and winners will receive the "5G Power Up" kit .

Inside the kit is a 5G SA SIM card, a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra flagship smartphone with Samsung's 5G SA software enabled, and a bunch of accessories related to the overall 5G experience. If you're selected - congratulations - because the 5G Power Up kit is for keeps. Yes, if you win it, it's yours.

If you weren't selected, don't worry. Singtel still has 5G experience zones at selected Singtel shops, UNBOXED, and UNBOXED Lite along Orchard Road . 

This article was first published in Hardware Zone.