As the world grapples with the virus, one industry is quietly playing a key role in helping communities respond to the pandemic: telecommunications.
Because of our core business, robust customer base, ICT skills, and technological capabilities, telcos are uniquely positioned—and I daresay have a duty to deliver infrastructure and connectivity to customers.
Already, the industry is supporting en masse remote working and learning by upgrading services to cope with higher bandwidth demands and providing discounted services and payment flexibility to struggling individuals and businesses.
For example, during the circuit breaker period, M1 augmented its fibre broadband network capacity to support higher residential traffic as well as enhanced coverage of foreign worker dormitories. For SMEs, the focus is much more on enabling digital transformation and enhancing business continuity.
Beyond all this, telecom operators in Singapore are at the forefront of 5G rollout in the hope that it reignites growth and delivers maximum value for both businesses and consumers.
Enabling people and businesses
The pandemic has triggered mass telecommuting, but even with the restrictions easing, working from home is likely to become a fixture. To make the transition easy for people, telcos must strive to understand customers’ experience and ensure superior connectivity and reliable network quality.
Beyond that, telecom operators have a role to play in subsidising mobile and broadband costs and offering rebates to low-income and vulnerable segments of the population. Recently, we launched two new subsidised mobile plans to support the digital journey of Singapore’s silver generation as part of IMDA’s Seniors Go Digital Programme.
In the same vein, we must also extend this altruism to SMEs, a key engine of the country’s economy. Now more than ever, we need SME-specific initiatives to help businesses survive this trying time. Many of these companies are experiencing business disruptions due to supply chain interruptions, the inability to fulfil customer orders, and not having the proper resources in place to work remotely in a productive and effective manner.
To ensure their business continuity, M1 has partnered with IMDA to create affordable business solutions – that are available for grants – to not only help businesses stay afloat, but thrive while working remotely. And because SMEs will continue to need support even after restrictions loosen, we are committed to providing services and solutions throughout 2020 and beyond.
The potential and promise of 5G
It’s early days for 5G rollout in Singapore, but the arrival of this altogether new frontier in communications couldn’t come soon enough.
At a basic level, 5G offers lightning-fast speeds, low latency, and the capacity to carry a massive number of connections simultaneously – but its more exciting potential is in supporting internet-connected devices that will perform functions unheard of.
For aspirational Smart Cities like ours, 5G is a crucial milestone to enable an interconnected infrastructure that makes our spaces more efficient, convenient, safe, and liveable.
The upshot for telcos is huge, too. According to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), 5G has a wealth of potential for operators. In fact, 5G could add six to nine per cent to consumer revenues and 18 to 22 per cent to enterprise revenues by 2025.
For all this to happen, telecom operators will need to innovate and create partnerships to reinforce the opportunities for 5G. Earlier this year, M1 partnered with Singapore Innovate (SGInnovate) to help startups use 5G technology for their products and solutions by connecting them with corporate partners and providing technical support.
As part of this, we are also working directly with selected startups to help them with the development, testing, and application of 5G technology for their products or solutions.
One area that holds tremendous promise is healthcare, specifically patient applications that are traditionally performed in hospital settings by health specialists. Some of the best use cases in this category include precision medicine, online consultations, remote surgery, and applications to monitor the health and administer medication remotely to better manage chronic ailments.
In the healthcare sector, our collaboration with SGInnovate will help to identify start-ups with a proof-of-concept, commercially ready products, and innovative applications, such as real-time health monitoring, remote diagnosis, and consultation.
For example, ECG rhythm monitoring devices that can be paired to a phone via Bluetooth can send signals directly to a cloud server database that allows doctors to view, analyse and diagnose patient information.
5G connectivity enables greater bandwidth usage, while intelligent network slicing separates and prioritises mission-critical functions. Crucially, the incredible low-latency attributes of 5G means the haptic feedback is felt in near real-time. These precious seconds saved to make a huge difference. Really, the possibilities are game-changing and limitless.
Today, as governments and frontline workers scramble to deal with COVID-19 and overburdened healthcare systems, I can’t help but consider the vital impact of 5G and its emerging applications.
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