Saifuddin Abdullah retracts 700MHz 5G spectrum assignment order

After a ministerial order instructing the MCMC to assign 700MHz spectrum to 5 telcos was revealed yesterday, the new Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has issued a retraction on the order.

In his statement, he said that the management and control of the spectrum are based on the provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and it is important for the development of the country which covers telecommunications, broadcast, science and technology, maritime and etc.

Saifuddin said 18 instruments including the assignment order on the 700MHz, 900MHz and 2600MHz spectrum were presented to him. The Minister said that on the basis of technical issues, law and the need for transparency, he has ordered the MCMC Chairman to revoke the order.

Interestingly, the original letter dated 15th May only mentions the assignment of 700MHz band for 5 telcos namely Altel, Celcom, Digi, Maxis and TM. However, the mention of 900MHz and 2600MHz band in the minister’s latest statement raises questions if there was a separate assignment order on the existing LTE bands.

Current Mobile Spectrum assignment. Source: MCMC

At the moment, the 900MHz bands are being utilised by Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile. Meanwhile, the 2600MHz band is assigned to Altel, AsiaSpace, Celcom, Digi, Maxis, RedTone, TM, U Mobile and YTL.

When the 5G spectrum bands were announced by the MCMC on 1st January, the 700MHz and 3.5GHz spectrum were intended to be allocated to a single consortium through a bidding process. At that time, the consortium approach was recommended as it would help lower deployment cost and reduce network duplication.

The order to assign 700MHz directly to 5 telcos has raised a lot of questions. Not all 5 companies were given the same bandwidth and existing LTE players such as U Mobile and YTL were not included. 5G deployment is expected to begin in Q3 2020.

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We have reached out to MCMC for clarification on the matter and we will update once we have received a response.


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Alexander Wong