Malaysia’s centralized 5G rollout in danger as telcos push back

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Image by szefei | Bigstockphoto

Malaysia’s plan to roll out 5G through a single shared network is being reconsidered by the cabinet, according to communications minister Annuar Musa.

He said that the cabinet has been in discussion on whether or not to allow many 5G providers, as telcos and industry stakeholders have opposed the government’s plan, thinking it may stifle competition.

“The cabinet will discuss again and will make a final decision by January whether to stick with a single wholesale network system or to have more than one operator to allow for some kind of competition,” Annuar added. Last Saturday, Telekom Malaysia became the first operator to sign up for DNB’s 5G trials.

Despite this, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), the government-owned firm in charge of creating and operating 5G infrastructure, will proceed with an initial deployment this month, according to Annuar. Last Saturday, Telekom Malaysia became the first operator to sign up for DNB’s 5G trials.

“The target now is to have a live network, covering … a total of 500 sites by the end of December, with at least some operators on board to provide a 5G network to end-users,” DNB chief technology officer Ken Tan said, as quoted by 5G Radar.

The single shared network is expected to enhance efficiency and lower expenses over a rollout carried out by multiple providers, but the country’s telcos think that it will in fact drain their cash due to increased costs around traffic volume and contingency expenses.

However, according to previous reports, major mobile carriers are still unconvinced about the network’s transparency and pricing. Malaysia’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad affair in 2016, when the government was reported to have stolen $700 million through a similar special purpose vehicle, is still fresh in people’s minds, according to Totaltele.

As a consequence, DNB has struggled to seal long-term agreements with the country’s five mobile operators.

Dushyan Vaithiyanathan, DNB’s Chief Operating Officer, previously stated that the project would probably cost about $3.8 billion (16.5 billion ringgit), which is around half of what operators would have needed to spend to create and deploy their own 5G networks.

Next week, Digital Network Services (DNB) will begin offering its wholesale 5G services to mobile carriers for free, with a cut-off date of March 31, when the agency will finalize long-term agreements with operators.

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