The Malaysian government is currently working on a single wholesale network (SWN) model to launch 5G, which may be finalised by the end of the month.
In late 2021, the government delayed its decision on 5G to at least the end of January due to the fact that the cabinet has been primarily concerned with addressing flood-related problems while also ensuring that COVID-19 is under control, according to an article from The Edge Markets.
As Malaysia explored the possibility of an SWN model, competing interests have caused rising uncertainty as a result of powerful lobbying for a second privately owned 5G network consortium.
With 5G, the most pressing concerns revolve around whether Digital National Bhd (DNB) can really cover 90% of the population with just 10,000 towers by 2022. According to DNB officials, they are ready to cut out duplication, improve larger spectrum availability, and the use of technology.
“The 23,000 4G LTE towers refer to all mobile network operator (MNO) towers, [meaning that] for a particular area of coverage, there is duplication of 4G LTE towers to provide the required coverage as there is minimal active sharing — each MNO has to build its own Radio Access Network (RAN) based on the spectrum allocated to them,” DNB head of network planning Yong Jun Jack told The Edge.
Yong further explained that while the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission JENDELA Report showed that mobile operators would have to deploy about 11,000 to 12,000 4G LTE towers to achieve 94.03% coverage of populated areas, there is a difference between towers for coverage and towers for capacity which the report failed to break down. He added that “for the major network operators, 15% to 20% of the 4G LTE towers are shared” by more than one operator, and “these [shared] 4G towers are in rural areas to reduce cost”.
However, 5G has a shorter wavelength than 4G, thereby 5G needs to build more sites. Yong discussed that the number of sites DNB needs for its network will be reduced by “leveraging native 5G capabilities and leading equipment from Ericsson”, which will enable a higher number of devices connected per site.
In the SWN model, only DNB is given the 5G spectrum. Hence, it will enjoy better spectrum efficiency than mobile network operators (MNOs) usually restricted by smaller blocks of limited spectrum.
“DNB is able to dynamically allocate 5G bandwidth to the MNOs by using MOCN [Multi-Operator Core Network] technology. This further reduces the number of towers required. If another network provider is given a portion of the spectrum allocated to DNB, it will lead to an increased number of towers to achieve the same 100Mbps performance [per user compared with the current 4G performance of 35Mbps],” Yong elaborates.
5G infrastructure status
According to previous reports, major mobile carriers are still unconvinced about the DNB’s transparency and pricing, with major wireless carriers calling out the government to allow a second 5G service to be set up.
As a consequence, DNB has struggled to seal long-term agreements with the country’s five mobile operators.
Earlier last month, the recently established consortium to finance 5G projects and 5G Infra Tech Solution Sdn Bhd have yet to secure any related projects from Digital National Bhd (DNB) and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) despite the corporate announcements, reports revealed.
SMTrack Bhd, a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solution company, signed a Heads of Agreement (HoA) with five listed companies – Country Heights Holdings Bhd, Jiankun International Bhd, Sersol Bhd, Techna-X Bhd and MQ Technology Bhd – stating that 5G Infra Tech and Ennova shall perform a joint venture on the network-related project.
Ennova, a Malaysian engineering company that provides telecommunication infrastructures, is in the final stage of securing a contract for 350 telecommunication towers to be leased to DNB and will kick-start the project upon finalisation of the definitive agreement with 5G Infra Tech and/or the consortium.
The companies expect a definitive agreement to be signed within three months of the agreement between consortium participants and 5G Infra Tech, which is currently in the midst of adding business activities for the telecommunication infrastructure.
“The joint venture agreement shall be concluded no later than three months from the date of the MoA,” the companies said. The MoA is valid for one year from Jan 14, 2022.
However, 5G Infra Tech has not yet determined the details and issue price of the redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS) among the group.