Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) has announced that Malaysia’s national 5G network is being deployed ahead of schedule and claims to be one of the fastest 5G rollouts in the world. They are confident that the 5G deployment will exceed 40% 5G population coverage by the end of this year which will cover 14 million people. DNB says they are still on track to achieve 80% 5G population coverage by the end of 2024, which will cover more than 30 million people.
Although DNB initially aimed at delivering 4,018 5G sites by the end of 2022, it believes it can achieve 40% 5G population coverage with just 3,500 sites. It explained that the reduced site count is a result of supply chain issues earlier this year and delays in securing necessary local council approvals primarily in Selangor and Sarawak. DNB says these issues have been resolved and will be deployed progressively in 2023 as planned. To overcome delays, DNB has redirected its deployment efforts to other states which were initially intended for 2023 and beyond.
At the moment, the national 5G network covers Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor and significant parts of Penang, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, as well as some parts of Malacca, Perak, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.
Ericsson’s Head of Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh David Hägerbro said “The rollout of the 5G network by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) is one of the fastest in the world, having commenced deployment only in October 2021.”
Meanwhile, DNB’s COO Nasution Mohamed said “On the basis of demand for 5G services as well as support received for the necessary approvals from the various state and local council authorities to accelerate network deployment, we are confident of achieving 80% COPA within the next 18 months.”
According to DNB’s breakdown, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya have over 96% 5G population coverage, followed by Selangor at 84% and Melaka at 49% as of 30th November 2022. Negeri Sembilan has 45% 5G population coverage, followed by Johor at 38.7%, Pulau Pinang at 33%, Sarawak at 26.7%, Perak at 19.7% and Sabah at 19.4%. Other states which were not included under Phase 1 of DNB’s rollout such as Terengganu, Pahang, Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis have also seen some 5G deployment with less than 6% of its population covered.
On the national level, DNB currently has 38.7% 5G population coverage as of the end of November and it is forecast to achieve 41.8% coverage by 31st December 2022 which is a few weeks away.
At the moment, 5G is being offered by five of six telcos – Celcom, Digi, U Mobile, Telekom Malaysia (Unifi) and YTL Communications (Yes 5G). Maxis has not offered 5G services yet pending its shareholders’ approval as part of its governance requirements. It aims to execute the 5G access agreements in January 2023.
DNB says data traffic on its 5G network has been surging with 56,000 concurrent users utilising 146 Terabytes of capacity on 30th November 2022. The single wholesale network says users are averaging 394 Mbps download speeds which is more than 10x faster than the average 4G download speed of 35Mbps. It added that there are 7 million 5G-compatible devices already in the hands of end users to date and it forecasted the growth will double in 2023 and exceed 40 million devices by 2030.
It says Malaysian users are spoilt for choice for 5G devices with 12 device brands and over 100 5G-compatible devices for all budgets available. For Apple iPhone users, DNB said users will have to wait until Apple gives effect to their retail plans with their partner telcos before 5G services are enabled.
Following the change of administration, the government will review the current 5G deployment plans via a Single Wholesale Network. Last week, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said the government is very concerned about the lateness of the 5G rollout as well as the cost of the rollout. He added that his Ministry will access the current state of the 5G implementation as well as its available options. The current 5G rollout by DNB is estimated to cost RM16.5 billion over a 10-year period.
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