Big Four Telcos Reportedly Bidding For Dual 5G Network Once Again

5G Signal Malaysia - January 2023

5G is already underway with a nationwide rollout in Malaysia, but it seems that some telcos still haven’t given up on trying to break the government’s direct grip on the new-generation cellular technology. According to a report by The Vibes, insider sources claim that the big four telcos are vying for another chance at setting up their own 5G network alongside the one run by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).

Comprised of Celcom, Digi, Maxis, and U Mobile — also known as CDMU — these major carriers have allegedly proposed to set up a dual wholesale network (DWN) again after the same proposal was previously rejected by the government.  CDMU have apparently backed the new bid as they sense that the new administration will be more likely to comply with their request.

DNB 5G MOCN Six Operator

According to the report, the informal consortium is keen on a second network as they desire access to their own 5G spectrum. With the current deal structure, all telcos effectively act as virtual network operators who buy access to DNB’s 5G network without owning any spectrum.

That being said, the sources also opined that if CDMU were to get control of its own 5G spectrum, it could come at the expense of rural and low-population areas as the major telcos might not see them as profitable enough to set up 5G connectivity in those areas. From DNB’s perspective, it explained last December that a DWN would cause inefficient use of the spectrum that would lead to a 50% drop in peak speeds.

dnb 5g u mobile maxis

When the new government took office, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced that his administration will review the 5G network run by DNB as they found that an RM11 billion contract with Ericsson was done without tendering or transparency. Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil revealed earlier this week that he will present the country’s 5G rollout plan to the Cabinet by the end of March.

Owing to the government’s review of the rollout, Maxis will be waiting until the federal 5G implementation policy gets finalised before making a decision. It is the only major telco that has still not signed up for DNB’s network or purchased shares in the state-owned vehicle.

Overall, while CDMU is determined to revive its bid for a second network, it now seems unlikely that the new administration will approve of it. During yesterday’s Belanjawan 2023 speech in the Parlimen, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reiterated his government’s commitment to better manage DNB [pdf – page 46], which could possibly mean that it will stick with the current single wholesale network.

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