DNB has completed the world’s first 5G MOCN trial with more than two telcos and targets to go live with 500 5G sites by the end of 2021.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa has told reporters that his ministry will be launching Malaysia’s first 5G network tomorrow with the aim to provide faster internet for Malaysians. He said this while presenting Deepavali Rumah Prihatin aid to about 200 families at Rumah Prihatin @ Grand Seasons.
He said the initial 5G rollout will cover Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya for the first year before expanding in stages to cover 36% of the population. He said 5G services will be a gamechanger for the economy of the future as it would create job opportunities in various high-tech activities.
At the time of writing, the local telcos have yet to introduce 5G packages and it isn’t clear if consumers can start using 5G on their phones tomorrow. This could be a ceremony to make it official that Digital Nasional Berhad‘s 5G network is up and running ahead of consumer availability. DNB, a state-owned single-wholesale-network under the Ministry of Finance, has been awarded the 5G spectrum by the government to provide 5G services to telcos through a wholesale agreement. It aims to launch 5G with 500 sites by the end of 2021 and it targets to hit 80% population coverage in 2024.
DNB has appointed Ericsson as the sole vendor to deploy 5G in Malaysia after a 4-month tender process. According to DNB, Ericsson was selected out of 4 bidders as it ranked top in 3 key components covering technical, commercial and socioeconomic factors.
During a recent interview with TheStar, DNB CEO Ralph Marshall said the current total cost is expected to be around RM16.5 billion and it could swell up to RM20 billion to anticipate any significant increase in capacity demand in the future. He also shared that the 5G network can provide 100Mbps at the cell edge but the actual speeds enjoyed by consumers may be lower as it could be capped by telcos.
DNB COO Dusyan Vaithiyanathan recently shared with MalayMail that the wholesale 5G data prices will be made public as part of its pledge for transparency. He added that telcos will pay much less per GB for 5G than what they are currently spending on their existing 4G network. Dusyan also confirmed that DNB will utilise existing towers and fibre optic cables to ensure that 5G is deployed at a fraction of the cost of building new ones. He said the arrangement will provide revenue to the telcos and it will help to lower their cost to serve 5G.
Malaysia’s approach to deploying 5G through a single network owned by the government has raised concerns among the opposition as well as industry analysts. GSMA has highlighted that the model is shown to be risky and has shown little success in comparison to traditional deployment that’s based on market competition. Pakatan Harapan has also scrutinised the direct-award of the spectrum to DNB as it is seen as a loss of revenue to the government. It added that Malaysia could gain up to RM12 billion if the spectrum were to be auctioned to private telcos. A few weeks earlier, Pejuang Youth said the state-run 5G rollout could hurt Malaysia’s digital economy as it could lead to a single point of failure if the network was not built and managed properly.