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Celcom still has 200 3G-only sites, currently accelerating 4G expansion including VoLTE

As Malaysia targets to shutdown 3G networks by the end of 2021, Celcom has revealed that it has approximately 200 3G-only sites in the country. It also added that there are around 800,000 users who are still using 3G phones as of December 2020. This was revealed during its Q4 2020 financial update and Celcom has committed to spend RM1 billion for capital expenditure in 2021.

To ensure that nobody will be left behind, the blue telco is accelerating its 4G expansion exercise as well as its education campaign to get more people to switch to 4G. According to its CEO Idham Nawawi, some of the existing 3G sites are under Celcom and they are also ramping up coverage in rural areas through the Universal Service Provision (USP) fund projects.

He also added that Voice over LTE (VoLTE) adoption is also important and they are ramping up efforts to get more people onboard with the right devices. At the moment, VoLTE is available for Celcom Mega postpaid customers and it isn’t available yet for Xpax postpaid and prepaid customers.

Celcom is still waiting for details on 5G SPV

When asked about Celcom’s role in the government’s 5G rollout through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), Idham says there isn’t much details at the moment including its implementation and investment. However, he added that Celcom is ready to contribute to the 5G efforts as they have 33 years of experience in building Malaysia’s widest mobile network which now has over 11,500 sites throughout the country. As announced by the Prime Minister, the 5G rollout will involve an investment of RM15 billion across a period of 10 years.

Under its current accelerated network investment program, they have targeted to upgrade and optimise 4,700 network sites nationwide which include almost 1,000 4G sites in Sabah and Sarawak. The telco has also conducted a nationwide cluster optimisation programme for additional 3,600 sites to address video buffering issues and to deliver better voice and video quality by August 2021.

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Compared to the previous quarter, Celcom has recorded more than 50% increase in data traffic growth on their network with 431 million GB in Q4 2020 versus 287 million GB in Q4 2019. An average user utilises 20.8GB per month in Q4 2020 versus 14.6GB per month in Q4 2019.

Celcom says its network investments for this year will focus on uplifting 4G LTE population coverage to 95.6% to deliver a consistent HD video experience, improved indoor coverage and seamless VoLTE experience. For 2021, Idham has hinted that consumers can look forward to new products and services in the enterprise and home segments.

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Alexander Wong