Innovation, Early Careers, Singtel Management Associate Programme

Making the First 5G Data Call – Yap Jian Beng

Published 05 Feb 2020 by FT

Jian Beng joined the Singtel Specialist Management Associate Programme (SMAP) after graduating with an Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree from NTU. He shares with us his journey as a Management Associate and his exciting experience launching the first 5G Garage in Singapore.

Q. What was the first role you took on when you joined Singtel?

A. As a Management Associate, we had the opportunity to explore two roles across the Singtel Group. My first role was a Network Engineer in the Mobile Network Engineering team. I worked on the launch of Singtel's IoT (Internet of Things) networks and designed in-building coverage solutions for customers to enjoy great coverage and high speed in buildings around Singapore.

Q. Why Singtel?

A. I wanted to pursue my interest in engineering and lead a team in future. The Specialist Management Associate Programme offered me the opportunity to have a combination of both technical and management development. I was also excited by the prospect of working for Singtel, a leading technology company in Singapore.

After being with the organisation for two years, I hope to use my network expertise to ensure that Singtel continues to be the best mobile network provider in Singapore and beyond!

Q. How was your experience like as a Management Associate, and what impact did it have on your subsequent roles in Singtel?

A, In the two-year programme, I had three rotations across two countries. It is always exciting to be learning new things, meeting new people and working on new projects. Aside from my first role as a Network Engineer, I took on the role of a 5G Access Manager in my second year, where I managed Singtel's 5G radio network trials. I also did a short stint in Optus, where I worked on the 5G network rollout in Australia. I am sure you can tell that my interest is in Networks.

From mobile networks design to deployment and troubleshooting, I have deepened my technical knowledge in the field. My second rotation, which also happens to be my current permanent role, has enabled me to explore new technologies. Coupled with my experience in Australia, I have a good view of the different aspects of managing a mobile network and can better appreciate the complexity of the technology behind it.

Q. What has been your most memorable first experience in Singtel?

A. Together with the team, we built the first 5G base station in Singapore. We made the first 5G data call in Singapore and launched the 5G Garage, the first live 5G facility in Singapore that allows companies to develop 5G-powered solutions. It was ten years ago since mobile operators moved onto deploying 4G. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on life-changing technology like 5G. It will be a story to share for many years to come.

5G network would be the next big thing for mobile network operators, and we wanted to be the first to bring 5G to Singapore. It's never easy to be the first. We had to get equipment into Singapore, build the base station site, get the frequency approved and connect the test devices to talk to the base station. After months of hard work, we made the first 5G NR data call on 16 November 2018. We even made the first international augmented reality (AR) call with our colleagues in Optus Australia a few months later.

Subsequently, I was given the chance to present our 5G network developments to the CTOs of Airtel, AIS, Globe and Telkomsel. I also get to plan Singapore's next-generation mobile networks: 5G network.

Q. What advice do you have for someone interested in working in a 5G-related field?

A. Be curious, don't stop learning since mobile technology evolves really fast. When a problem arises, be creative; new problems often require novel solutions. It helps to be more dynamic and flexible too.

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