Following the change of administration, Malaysia is currently looking at assessing the current 5G deployment through a single wholesale network. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the current 5G plans will need to be evaluated as it was not done in a transparent manner and there was no tender. Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has also said that the government is assessing the current 5G deployment while assuring that the current rollout by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) will not be interrupted.
During an interview with BFM on The Breakfast Grille, Fahmi said it might be early right now to say when the cabinet will make a decision but he expects perhaps within this quarter the government will have some kind of finality, hopefully. He said we are still not sure what are the impacts or effects if the matter is further delayed.
Fahmi said there are a lot of technical aspects to the 5G rollout and we have seen various models that have worked and haven’t worked, and it’s all about balancing. He said having full visibility of the contractual obligations is critical as we don’t want any financial implications that could be seemingly insurmountable
When asked for his opinion about DNB as a monopoly with the current single wholesale network model, Fahmi said regardless of his own personal opinions as an MP previously, it is important that right now as a minister, he represents the government’s position. He said they have not yet had a cabinet discussion on the matter, as such he couldn’t comment including options being considered.
At the moment, DNB is the sole entity that could roll out 5G in Malaysia as it has been given the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz spectrum for 5G services. Other mobile network operators are not permitted to roll out their own 5G network as the technology neutrality of the existing spectrum was revoked during the previous administration. Under the previous Pakatan Harapan government, the original plan was to deploy commercial 5G services by Q3 2020 through a private-led consortium. However, the plan was scrapped after the government was changed in February 2020.
There have been calls for spectrum to be given directly to telcos or to allow a second wholesale network that’s driven by the private sector to encourage infrastructure competition. GSMA has said that a Dual Wholesale Network approach would speed up the 5G rollout while DNB has responded that having two 5G networks in Malaysia may increase costs to consumers and lower the quality of 5G services.
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