During yesterday’s Parliamentary session, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil asked Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa about technology neutrality for existing spectrum which was removed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in July 2021. The move has caused a stir in the industry as telcos have paid for the spectrum on the basis of technology neutrality but are now restricted up to 4G.
Annuar Musa said technically, the existing spectrum assigned to telcos can be used for 5G deployment. However, if the current telcos are permitted to do so, it will affect the single wholesale model by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). DNB is a state-owned company under the Ministry of Finance that has been mandated to roll out a national 5G network. Telcos will have to gain 5G access from DNB through a wholesale agreement. At the moment, DNB has yet to secure a commercial wholesale deal with telcos but TM has committed to participate in a 5G user trial.
The minister said the government will revisit the matter and they have surveyed other concepts used in other countries. He added, to provide high capacity for mobile telecommunications, the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz spectrum will be used exclusively for 5G and other spectrum will be utilised for 4G. At the same time, 3G services will be turned off to free up the spectrum and some will remain for 2G services.
He said this approach will ensure the efficiency of the spectrum but it poses a constraint to the telcos as they can’t make use of their existing spectrum to provide 5G services. He added that this is something that possibly can be relooked at in depth.
Annuar Musa has said yesterday that DNB should engage with MPs from the opposition in Parliament. He said the government should view the concerns about the 5G implementation seriously and not bulldoze it through. He recently revealed that the government is reconsidering DNB’s single wholesale model which opens up the possibility of telcos deploying their own 5G infrastructure. The government aims to make a final decision on the single wholesale model by January 2022.
Telcos could use 2300MHz and 2600MHz to deploy 5G services
The big four mobile telcos such as Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile currently have a mixture of 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz spectrum to provide 2G, 3G, and 4G services. With the scheduled shutdown of 3G at the end of this year, the 2100MHz spectrum can be utilised fully for 4G. Meanwhile, TM, YTL, and Redtone have access to 2300MHz.
If the telcos are granted technology neutrality for the spectrum, they could utilise the 2300MHz and 2600MHz spectrum to provide 5G services. Thailand is currently using 2600MHz for 5G while Australia has used 2300MHz spectrum for 5G.
According to GSMA’s Public Policy Position released early this year, 5G requires spectrum across low, mid, and high bands. It said the 2.3 GHz and 2.6GHz bands should also be licensed to operators for 5G use, and all existing and new licences should be technology-neutral to allow their evolution to 5G services.
During a recent media briefing, DNB revealed that it has a 40MHz block of the 700MHz spectrum, a 200MHz block of the 3.5GHz spectrum, and a 1600MHz block of the 26/28GHz (mmWave) spectrum.
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