During the tabling of the amended Budget 2023, Malaysia’s current 5G rollout by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) was mentioned briefly by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. It appears that DNB will continue its role as a 5G single wholesale network but it will be managed better to ensure that it achieves its 5G deployment targets.
In his speech, he said the previous administration had started the 5G initiative through DNB and had achieved 50% population coverage by the end of 2022. He added that the Unity Government is now taking the approach of managing DNB more transparently and comprehensively to ensure the full participation of all telcos in the country. It aims to achieve 80% 5G population coverage by the end of 2023.
Anwar added that ultimately, the most important goal is to achieve comprehensive 5G coverage with reasonable prices for the people.
After the change of government, the Prime Minister called for a review of the current 5G deployment plans due to concerns that it wasn’t done transparently. The newly minted Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil had also expressed concerns about the cost and the current rate of the 5G rollout in the country. A complete review of the 5G rollout via DNB is expected to be completed by the end of March 2023.
DNB recently claimed that its 5G network has achieved close to 5G population coverage with a total of 3,900 sites by the end of 2022. After being rebuked by Fahmi Fadzil, DNB later confirmed that its 5G network is only accessible by consumers in 38% of populated areas while the remaining sites are waiting to be onboarded by the telcos.
It isn’t clear what the government intends to do to ensure full participation among telcos. Could it mean all telcos will get a larger stake in the single wholesale network? Or perhaps, the government intends to push for a revision to the current 5G wholesale pricing which currently isn’t regulated by MCMC’s Mandatory Standard of Access Pricing (MSAP)?
At the moment, a total of 5 telcos have signed 5G access agreements with DNB which includes YTL Communications, Telekom Malaysia, Celcom, Digi and U Mobile. Maxis remains the only telco that has yet to sign up with DNB for 5G access. The green telco has updated last month that it will delay its decision until the government completes its review into DNB.
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