Malaysia’s 5G journey: progress and future prospects

Malaysia has made great strides there, with coverage in its densely populated areas reported at 81.7%, an impressive figure given that South Korea and Singapore only reached that level by September and October.

Malaysia has made historic progress to achieve 80 percent coverage in Densely Populated Areas (CoPA) by late 2023.

Deputy Communications Minister Teo Nee Chin recently told state media that a total of 7,114 sites were Expanding throughout MalaysiaWhile the focus so far has been on economically active urban areas, efforts are underway to expand service coverage to rural areas, and this will be rolled out in stages.

A look at state and territory coverage data shows momentum is building, with Kuala Lumpur leading the way with 97.7%, followed by Putrajaya at 97.3% and Selangor at 96.1%. Other states range from 62% in Sarawak to the highest in Labuan at 94.4%.

This progress can be attributed to the adoption of the Single Wholesale Network (SWN) model by Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB).A key step in this process was the signing of a Share Subscription Agreement (SSA) with five mobile network operators (MNOs) in December 2023.

This transition will allow us to focus on areas that require attention as Malaysia enters the next phase of its 5G rollout. Indoor coverage remains a priority and efforts will continue to determine the most effective strategies, particularly in key public areas and enterprise solutions.

Additionally, there is an increasing focus on the potential for extending 5G to underserved areas, including how Universal Service Provision (USP) funding can be leveraged and what new deployment models can help close rural access gaps.

Private 5G networks are also starting to be developed in sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare, a trend exemplified by Petronas’ private network at the Melaka Regasification Terminal.

Discussions are underway to allow more equipment vendors to participate in the 5G ecosystem, especially for the remaining 20% ​​of CoPA, indoor coverage and enterprise solutions.

Discussions are ongoing over DNB’s future operating and ownership structure, including the possibility of the government retaining a golden share to ensure coordination between operators and proper debt management.Speculation continues regarding the rollout of a second wholesale network, which could complement DNB’s efforts if implemented carefully.

The government is expected to make key announcements on the country’s 5G policy in the coming months. These decisions will shape the future of Malaysia’s 5G landscape, addressing key aspects such as the balance between the existing SWN model and potential new networks, strategies to accelerate indoor and rural coverage, ensuring fair competition and innovation in the telecommunications sector, and maintaining high technical standards and affordability for consumers.

As Malaysia advances its 5G ambitions, the focus remains on achieving comprehensive coverage, fostering innovation and ensuring the benefits of the technology reach all segments of society. The success of these efforts will play a key role in positioning Malaysia as a leader in digital connectivity in the region.

For those experiencing coverage issues, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has avenues for complaints, including a WhatsApp hotline and the commission’s website. Members of Parliament can also lodge complaints at the MCMC complaints counter at Parliament House.

The future path of Malaysia’s 5G rollout hinges on key policy decisions, including whether to retain the government’s golden share in DNB, holding a public tender for the remaining coverage areas and indoor solutions, and considering the funding model for rural rollout. The possibility of a second wholesale network adds an additional layer of complexity to these considerations.

As the country awaits policy clarity, both the telecommunications industry and consumers are looking forward to improved connectivity and innovative services as they prepare for the next chapter of Malaysia’s digital transformation.

Read also: 5G and security: Dual communications challenges facing new UK government

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