Malaysia ministries to release wholesale 5G memorandum this week

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Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) and Ministry of Finance (MoF) have completed their memorandum on the country’s controversial wholesale 5G rollout plan, and will release it to the Cabinet on March 11.

Minister of Communications and Multimedia Tan Sri Annuar Musa tweeted on March 3 that the two ministries have completed their engagements over the rollout of Malaysia’s 5G infrastructure, which is currently based on the newly implemented single wholesale network (SWN) model.

“[A] Cabinet ministers’ memorandum has been completed and given to the Secretariat. It is expected to be tabled on March 11 for a decision. All parties are requested not to speculate about it,” Annuar Musa said.

The country’s wholesale 5G network implementation has been fraught with difficulties in recent months, including several pushbacks as the launch came amid a standoff between local telcos and the government over the government’s desire to create a single wholesale 5G network.

Under the SWN model, government-owned entity Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) will be the sole owner of 5G infrastructure assets, which will then be leased to all mobile network operators (MNOs) rather than each MNO operating its own infrastructure. Supporters of SWN argue that this model reduces asset overlap, resulting in improved coverage and execution time.

While DNB first declared the network’s availability in December, the 5G access is provided by only two of the country’s mobile operators, Telekom Malaysia and YTL Communications, to their respective customers. However, YTL’s 5G coverage is only available within selected coverage areas in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Cyberjaya while TM is still performing tests for its 5G service.

On February 18, four mobile network operators – Celcom Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Maxis and U Mobile – recommended that the government adopt a dual wholesale 5G network (DWN) model that would be developed and operated by two consortiums – DNB, and MNOs who invest in the project.

Among the most pressing concerns surrounding 5G are whether DNB will really be able to cover 90% of the population with just 10,000 towers by 2022. DNB CEO Ralph Marshall said in a statement it is ready to improve greater spectrum availability, eliminate duplication, and make technology more effective.

“Spectrum is a scarce and valuable national resource. Due to scarcity of spectrum, and the fact that a 5G network typically requires at least 100 MHz of spectrum per operator, it would have been very challenging to carve out sufficient spectrum to develop individual 5G networks in Malaysia,” he said.

Last year, the Malaysian government selected Ericsson to build the 5G network infrastructure to be operated by DNB.

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