Malaysia will continue with its 5G rollout with Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) until it achieves 80 per cent 5G population coverage this year.
It will then transition to a Dual Wholesale Network model with a second entity – to be determined – to offer 5G services.
Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said the decision follows a government review and Cabinet decision to honour its contractual obligation and respect the sanctity of its current contract with DNB. Fahmi added that the deal had gone through a tender process.
Having two 5G network operators instead of one will benefit telecommunications companies and consumers, and is in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent call to review monopolies.
On Dec 5 last year, Anwar had called for a review of the RM11 billion 5G network contract awarded by DNB – an agency under the Finance Ministry – to Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson. The contract was awarded during the previous administration.
In a report by Twentytwo13 on April 10, Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) secretary-general, Datuk Paul Selvaraj, and veteran economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, said a monopoly in the form of DNB would not benefit consumers in the long run.
The same report also suggested having another company share in the distribution of the 5G network, or empowering telecommunications companies, instead.
“We are confident of hitting the target by year’s end, as the current coverage stands at 57.8 per cent,” Fahmi said today.
“That is another 22.2 per cent. Once we hit the 80 per cent target, we will allow another entity to provide 5G coverage.”
On who that second player will be, Fahmi said: “It is a free market. The one offering the best deal will win. It is up to Entity B to calculate and deliberate on how they want to enter the market.”
Fahmi also said that all telcos, except for Maxis, have signed the access agreement with DNB.
The minister said the decision to have a dual network was also to avoid a ‘single point of failure’ situation. Having another player provides the necessary redundancies if a network’s operation was down.
“There will be interoperability, in case one network is affected… there is a fall-back option,” he said.
“Having another provider will also ensure that the network speed is not affected.”