Malaysia Cabinet will Announce 5G Rollout Plans This Week

Updated: Mar 17

Two years after the highly publicised Langkawi 5G Testbed Project event, Malaysia is still building up the hype for its 5G rollout. Finally, months after the launch of its nationalised institution to oversee 5G deployment, oddly called Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), it will decide whether to continue on this planned course or change to heed industry requests.

Credit: DNB

This will come in the form of a major announcement that will confirm the government’s decision on whether it will go ahead with its current plans to operate with a single state-run 5G network. The alternative is to heed the advice of major telco market players in Malaysia to allow for a second player to ensure fair competition.

According to the Minister of Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia, Annuar Musa, there will be a press conference to announce this decision and next steps to be taken on 15 March 2022. He shared this in a text message to Reuters and when prompted to share additional details, he declined to elaborate.

The hullabaloo surrounding the 5G rollout for Malaysia is controversially infamous. Since the Langkawi event and the unveiling of DNB after with its plans to distribute 5G deployment licenses, concerns among local telcos about the singular nature of the rollout have cropped up. This led to four major operators – Axiata’s Celcom; Digi; Maxis; and U Mobile – putting forward a joint recommendation to allow two wholesale 5G networks. Both will be built and operated through a consortium of carriers.

Reuters broke this specific news as it managed to get a hold of the presentation slides. Key takeaways that it managed to extract includes:

  • The proposed consortia will work in parallel next year and separate in 2023

  • Both will use existing telco assets to coordinate rollout and collaborate in the first 12 to 18 months

  • The end-goal –Malaysia gets fast initial 5G rollout and will work with dual competing networks

Anticipation from the upcoming announcement is high as various countries and global telcos are now watching closely how Malaysia will make this work and maintain its innovation leadership in this space. As is, carriers are worried that the single state-run platform for 5G deployment will potentially result in a nationalised monopoly. This is a big concern as there is only one major telecom backbone operator in Malaysia.

Credit: DNB

There are also pricing concerns, a factor that – oddly, had never been addressed properly – continues to be the main focus for the mobile operators. To date, DNB promised that the fees to access the 5G network will be lower compared to what telcos have incurred for 4G.

  • The upcoming announcement will confirm if 5G licenses and deployment will run with one or more players

  • Mobile carriers in Malaysia have made recommendations for two more e5G providers

  • The primary concern from the telcos is how a nationalised monopoly of 5G could be created