[ UPDATE 24/08/2023 ] Customers paying “DNB Tax” for 5G? Here’s DNB’s response.
With Maxis finally on board, all telcos in Malaysia are offering 5G services to consumers via Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). Malaysia’s decision to adopt the Single Wholesale Network approach for 5G deployment was supposed to make 5G more affordable than 4G but it turns that that most telcos are charging customers a “DNB tax” between RM5 to RM20 per month to access the national 5G network.
As reported by The Edge, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil will be meeting with telco CEOs to discuss the extra charges for 5G access which has been a concern for consumers migrating from 4G to 5G. He told reporters, “Not all of them charge extra, I know YTL doesn’t. I will be meeting with the CEOs soon, to coordinate this matter. We understand that there might be some onboarding process for them, but we hope that they can address some of these concerns.”
Fahmi added that his wife was also reluctant to switch to 5G due to the added cost. He said, “My wife is hesitant about taking up 5G, because she says when we converted from 3G to 4G, we didn’t have to pay anything, but now why do we have to pay? It is a valid question, and one asked by the minister’s wife to the minister, so I have to find an appropriate answer.”
As announced earlier, Fahmi said telcos are expected to introduce affordable 5G packages on 31st August 2023 in conjunction with the Merdeka celebration. The minister announced Pakej 5G Rahmah several weeks ago which offers 60GB of 5G data for RM60/month, along with 5G smartphone bundles from RM120 for B40 users.
Telcos charge RM5 to RM20 for “DNB tax”?
In order to enjoy 5G, most telcos charge an additional 5G access fee of RM5 to RM20 per month for existing 4G plans. Alternatively, users can choose to access 5G without extra fees if they migrate to newer 5G-enabled plans which offer more data. Some telcos waive the 5G access fees for existing 4G plans if you’re subscribed to a high-tier postpaid plan.
For example, Maxis’s new 5G postpaid plans starting from RM79/month now offer 120GB of 5G accessible data, which is double the quota of its previous Postpaid 98 which offered 60GB of data. However, existing Postpaid 98 could either pay RM10/month for 5G access or upgrade to Postpaid 108 for an additional RM11/month which provides 2.5X more data (150GB 5G data). For customers without a contract and who don’t need so much data, they are able to downgrade to Postpaid 79 to get more data for less. As part of its introductory offer, Maxis and also Hotlink Prepaid customers can enjoy 5G access for free for the first month.
On CelcomDigi, existing postpaid customers have to pay RM10 to RM20 per month for 5G access which comes with boosted data. However, this fee is waived if you’re on Postpaid 90 and above. Meanwhile, CelcomDigi prepaid customers will need to buy 5G Booster passes which costs as little as RM3 per day. Alternatively, they could switch to the new Digi Prepaid Next 5G or Celcom Xpax Prepaid 5G which costs RM48/month.
Digi’s latest postpaid promo also illustrates the big gap between the cost of 4G and 5G. With their current promo, the Postpaid 60 plan for RM60/month can be yours with either 50GB data with 5G access or 80GB with 4G data with a 24-month contract.
Yoodo also charges RM10 per month for 5G access but it is currently offered at a discounted rate of RM5 per month until further notice.
No clear roadmap to Dual Network for 5G
While the minister has yet to meet up with telco CEOs, he said they have been focused on getting both 5G access agreement as well as equity participation in DNB to completion. Although Fahmi announced the government’s policy shift from a 5G Single Wholesale Network (SWN) to a Dual Network approach by early 2024, there’s no clear indication of who will be building the second 5G network. Instead, it seems to be status quo at the moment as all telcos have signed a 10-year access agreement and are now working towards acquiring a stake in the Single Wholesale Network.
It was claimed that DNB will charge telcos less than 20 sen per GB for 5G data and it will be lower than the telcos cost to offer 4G on their own network. Last year, the big four telcos raised concerns about DNB’s 5G reference access offer of RM30,000 per Gbps saying that it will not enable affordable and quality 5G services for the rakyat.