Singtel starts issuing SIM cards for 5G standalone network

April 27th, 2021 | by Alfred Siew
Singtel starts issuing SIM cards for 5G standalone network
PHOTO: Singtel handout

Singtel now offers mobile customers a choice of SIM cards that are ready for its upcoming 5G standalone (SA) network, after it installed equipment at “hundreds” of sites across Singapore.

The country’s largest telecom operator said today that it had set up 5G SA sites at Orchard Road, the Central Business District, Harbourfront and Sentosa, while expanding indoor coverage at VivoCity, Ngee Ann City and selected Singtel shops across the island.

While the 5G SIM cards are symbolic for now – there are no commercial 5G SA networks in Singapore now – they do give impatient techies who want to be the first to experience 5G an option to get ready for the launch, which market watchers expect to be later this year.

From now until May 31, Singtel customers will get their new 5G SIM cards free when they sign up for a 5G plan. Existing customers can also switch out their current SIM cards for free at Singtel shops.

Since September 2020, Singtel has been running a market trial of its 5G SA network, promising speeds of up to 1.2Gbps.

Rivals StarHub and M1, which will jointly operate the other 5G network in Singapore, have also been prepping for their big launch, expected later this year as well.

PHOTO: Singtel handout

While 5G SA’s benefits of much lower latencies – in the handful of milliseconds instead of tens of milliseconds today with 4G – are clear for some businesses connecting up their Internet of Things (IoT), consumers may not find the use case as compelling yet.

What, for example, will be the biggest difference for users who already can view their YouTube and Netflix videos smoothly today? Will the lure of faster speeds alone draw them in?

That’s not to mention the confusion that some may have with 5G non-standalone (NSA) services that the three telecom operators have already made available today.

5G NSA can be built on top of existing 4G networks and offers faster speeds (see our first-hand experience) but it does not have the low latencies that 5G SA offers.

5G SA is an independent network built from the ground up to cope with the amount and velocity of data of the future. Thus, the added time that telcos need to roll that out.

If the telcos make things seamless for all their 5G networks, that is, users get a good experience whether they are on 5G NSA or SA, then they could conceivably win over early adopters.

They also need handsets to make things work. As things stand, there isn’t a 5G SA phone that is prepped for the Singapore market yet, though new models, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21+, support both 5G SA and NSA on paper.

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