Sarawak erects Malaysia’s first Multi-Operator Core Network tower to improve 4G coverage

The Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) has announced that its first SMART telecommunication tower under the SMA 300 tower program has been completed. This is said to be the first tower in Malaysia with a Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) implementation which enables multiple telcos to share infrastructure in a cost effective manner.

The tower provides 3G and 4G network coverage to improve mobile connectivity at Luban Ulu in Betong, Sarawak. This addresses the weak and intermittent coverage issues faced by the local community and the tower can provide coverage of up to a 3 km radius.

The MOCN setup allows Celcom, Maxis, Digi and U Mobile to share resources to expand its coverage in low density areas. The approach was selected due to the operational complexity and costs involved for rural telecommunication deployment. MOCN is more cost efficient as opposed to having each telco erect its own mobile tower which isn’t feasible. In this form of network infrastructure sharing, multiple operators will share the physical tower, radio access network and spectrum, as illustrated below.

Source: GSMA

According to the SMA, the rest of the tower project will be equipped with the same solution to ensure cost-effective connectivity in underserved areas of Sarawak. The program aims to construct a total of 300 towers as part of the Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018-2022. The Luban Ulu SMART Telecommunication Tower was launched by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on 26th September 2020.

Apart from Sarawak, the MCMC has recently announced that a temporary 30 metre tower will be erected at Kampung Kongsi 14 in Bukit Selambau, Kedah to improve mobile coverage. The village recently went viral for making their own makeshift “tower” consisting of a modem attached to a tall pole. The MCMC said that the new tower will be the first with a MOCN setup in Peninsular Malaysia. Similar to Luban Ulu, the new tower will be shared by Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile and it will take 6 weeks to complete after obtaining approval from the Sungai Petani council.

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Alexander Wong