Celcom CEO: Focus on improving 4G now, commercial 5G rollout in 2H 2021

Celcom Axiata CEO Mohamad Idham Nawawi has told The Edge Markets that now is not the right time to commercialise 5G in Malaysia. He said this is due to limited availability of devices and applications linked to the technology.

Idham added that timing for 5G commercialisation is vital as early deployment could be costly as there’s no mass production of 5G equipment. On top of that, he says there’s limited content for 5G usage in order to boost demand for the technology.

Celcom 5G test
5G live cluster field trial

When asked when is the right time to commercialise 5G, the CEO estimates probably in the second half of 2021. The blue telco has been an active participant in the 5G Demonstration Projects and they are currently working on getting their equipment ready to improve its 4G foundation.

The Edge Markets have also reported that Axiata Group CEO Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim has shared a similar view. The telco veteran said 5G is “pretty much oversold” as many applications can still run through 4G technology. He shared that 5G devices are still not widely available and often come with a hefty premium which will limit its adoption rate.

Even Maxis had also revised its 5G roll out target with substantial rollout expected only in 2021. This is due to the lack of spectrum assignment and limited 5G compatible devices in the local market.

5G Malaysia

Malaysia had initially targeted to roll out 5G in Q3 2020. The 5G spectrum was originally intended to be assigned through a consortium with bidding to start sometime in Q1 2020. After the change of administration, it appears that Malaysia’s 5G plans are currently put on hold and the government is now focusing on strengthening the current 4G footprint while expanding fibre broadband access nationwide with the JENDELA plan.

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Meanwhile, Singapore has already begun market trials of 5G. StarHub’s 5G NSA network went live on the 17th of August and selected customers can enjoy 5G via its 2100MHz spectrum. This is followed by Singtel which has just started offering free access to 2,000 customers that own compatible 5G phones. Singtel’s 5G network uses both 2.1GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum in NSA architecture. Both telco claims to offer over 1Gbps speeds on 5G.


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Alexander Wong