Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa told Parliament yesterday that Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) is told to conduct engagement sessions with Members in Parliament on the implementation of the national 5G network. This comes after a recent report that the Cabinet is reconsidering the single wholesale network model for 5G deployment under DNB.
Lembah Pantai MP, Fahmi Fadzil, reminded that DNB was supposed to meet with Parliamentarians including the opposition earlier but to date, they have not arranged for a meetup. Instead, DNB wanted to meet him directly and he felt it is more appropriate for them to meet the MPs in Parliament similar to other engagements with backbenchers. Annuar Musa noted his request and he agreed that DNB should meet with opposition MPs in the spirit of transparency.
Ledang MP, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, said it appears to be some confusion between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia following Annuar Musa’s recent statement. Annuar Musa denied there was any contradiction as the Finance Minister was only recapping the current situation and the rationale behind having a single wholesale network to speed up deployment, reduce cost, and reduce network duplication.
On his end, Annuar said he was only mentioning the concerns and what action needs to be taken to address them.
Business as usual for DNB
He added DNB is operational and has started deploying the 5G network with the intention to offer wholesale services to the telcos. Discussions between DNB and telcos on the commercial wholesale service are still ongoing while the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) acts as the regulator.
While all these are happening, Annuar said as a concerned government, they are open to listening to all concerns and views including opposition leaders. After engaging with all parties including opposition and backbenchers, they will need to provide an update to the cabinet before a decision is made to change the current single wholesale network model which has been decided previously.
DNB has recently announced that its network is ready for 5G services from 15th December 2021, however, it has yet to secure commercial deals from telcos as the Reference Access Offer (RAO) has yet to be finalised. To provide Malaysians early access to the network before the year is out, DNB is offering free 5G access to telcos until 31st March 2022. At the time of writing, only TM has confirmed its participation in the 5G user trial and it will be offered to Unifi Mobile postpaid customers. DNB aims to settle its wholesale deal with telcos by 31st March 2022.
Concerns of 5G Single Wholesale Network model
Annuar said there were valid concerns which include whether Malaysia wants to establish a monopoly or do we want to encourage competition? He said although the concerns came from the opposition, there is merit in the argument. He added that there are existing laws that are anti-monopoly. Therefore, the government has taken the stand to revisit the issue without siding any parties and to provide an opportunity for both ministries to issue a joint paper that will be brought forward to the cabinet. Annuar Musa said the government should view the concerns about the 5G implementation seriously and not bulldoze it through.
He said the government believes the concerns raised by the MPs should be looked into in detail and there’s no difference in opinions between the two ministries. Annuar Musa said earlier that the government hopes to make a final decision on the 5G rollout model by January 2022.