European telecom equipment vendors are the big winners as Singapore hands out 5G contracts. Image Credit: AFP

Singapore City: Singapore's biggest telecom operators chose Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj as their main 5G network providers, leaving China's Huawei Technologies Co. with less significant contracts.

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. chose Ericsson, while a group that includes StarHub Ltd. opted for Nokia after Singapore gave final approval for the rollout of nationwide 5G coverage in the country. Huawei, which has been a point of contention in the tensions between the US and China, still has a foothold in the market as a provider for TPG Telecom Pte's smaller, local network system.

The final awards were issued to Singtel and a group formed by StarHub and M1 Ltd. after they completed regulatory processes, including selection of preferred frequency spectrum lots and vendor partners, the Infocomm Media Development Authority said. 

TPG Telecom Pte Ltd. is being allocated the remaining frequency spectrum in the millimeter wave band to roll out localized 5G networks.

"We never explicitly excluded any vendor," Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said. "You have a diversity of vendors involved in different aspects of the 5G system and that is in fact a positive outcome from our perspective."

Iswaran said Thursday the city-state has very clear security and resilience requirements, and the choices made by the telcos took this into account "very clearly".

Grand ambitions

Singtel and the StarHub-M1 group plan to introduce a standalone 5G network starting from January 2021. Singapore aims to have 5G coverage for at least half of the nation by the end of 2022 and the entire island by 2025. 

Shadow of US-China tussle

The Singapore telcos' decision on providers comes amid worsening tensions between the US and China. The US administration has banned Huawei from its market for telecom equipment, as part of an effort to curb its presence in 5G networks globally.

The Pentagon, in letters to lawmakers dated June 24, said it put Huawei on a list of 20 companies it says are owned or controlled by China's military. While the move's implications were not immediately clear, it opens the company to potential additional U.S. sanctions.

Singapore has close economic and political ties with the US and China, and last year indicated it would let its telco companies decide for themselves on suppliers. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this year it hadn't banned Huawei, but would evaluate it based on operational requirements.