Malaysia’s big four telcos – Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile, have submitted a proposal to the government for the establishment of Dual Wholesale Networks (DWN) for 5G rollout in Malaysia. This would establish a second 5G network formed by a consortium of telcos alongside Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), which is currently the single wholesale network (SWN).
According to a joint statement issued today, the telcos express their full support towards the Government’s agenda throughout the MyDigital initiative and the development of the digital economy in Malaysia where 5G networks are among the critical infrastructure. It stated, “we have submitted our proposal for the establishment of two Wholesale Networks (Dual Wholesale Networks or DWN) which will be developed and operated by two consortiums involving Government, DNB, and mobile network operators (MNOs) who are ready to invest.”
The four telcos view the DWN model as a feasible option that leverages MNOs capabilities, existing resources, including infrastructure, supply chain, and the experience of thousands of Malaysian technical talents. They are also looking forward to playing their part in realising the long-term sustainable benefits to the Nation, a win-win solution for the Government, rakyat, and the industry.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa has shared today that his Ministry and the Ministry of Finance will table a Cabinet Ministers’ memorandum next month to resolve the issues relating to DNB “once and for all”. He said the position of DNB and the Single Wholesale Network or Dual Wholesale Network has become a debate and polemic should be resolved soon. He told reporters “If we allow it to prolong, it will affect the 5G rollout programme which is a key factor to Malaysia’s Digital Economy Framework of Action and implementation of MyDigital.
As reported by Opensignal, Malaysia’s current average mobile speed currently lags behind Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines which have already launched their 5G service significantly.
Malaysia was supposed to launch 5G under a private-led consortium in Q3 2020. After the change of government in February 2020, the 5G plans were put on hold until MyDigital was launched in 2021 with a target to deploy 5G by Q4 2021. Instead of a private-led consortium, the current government has decided to allocate the spectrum to a single government entity which is now known as DNB. The Malaysian government has allocated the 700MHz, 3.5GHz, and 26/28GHz spectrum to DNB, while the telcos are not allowed to use their existing spectrum for 5G.
DNB’s 5G network went live on 15th December 2021 and are offering free access to their 5G network until 31st March 2022. So far YTL Communications’ Yes and TM’s Unifi Mobile have accepted the free trial offer but only Yes is offering 5G services. At the moment, no telco has announced the signing of a wholesale agreement with DNB pending finalisation of the Reference Access Offer.
In December, Reuters reported that the big four telcos have recommended for an additional 5G network to run in parallel with DNB. It added that two organisations will utilise existing telco assets to coordinate rollout and collaborate in the first 12-18 months to achieve a faster rollout of 5G across Malaysia than any one party. The report also states that the telcos are open to proposals to allow them to own equity in DNB and they want greater inclusion in the government’s 5G rollout plan.
Responding to questions raised by Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, DNB’s CEO Ralph Mashall said there will be an enormous implication should the Government decide on having a dual wholesale network (DWN). He said it is highly unlikely that DNB in its current form will survive should there be another wholesale network provider in Malaysia. He added if DNB fails, the second wholesale provider will then eventually become a private SWN monopoly. In addition, he said the Government will be subjected to pay substantial amounts of claims and compensation including early termination penalties for various types of contracts made for the operations of DNB.
The industry including GSMA has repeatedly raised concerns about Malaysia’s approach to deploy 5G through an SWN citing failures of similar deployments in countries such as Belarus, Mexico, and Rwanda. It added that SWN model for 5G will threaten Malaysia’s competitiveness. It believes that a pragmatic approach is needed by all parties to ensure that DNB delivers the next-generation connectivity that Malaysia needs.