Friday 02 Jun 2023
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 7, 2022 - November 13, 2022

After months of protracted negotiations and posturing, all telcos except Maxis have now signed the access agreement (AA) with Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) to enable them to provide 5G services to their customers. Maxis says it needs to obtain shareholders’ approval at an extraordinary general meeting before it can proceed to sign the AA with DNB to provide 5G. This is puzzling as no shareholder approval was sought when it subscribed for 3G and 4G spectrum in the past.

Maxis also did not say if its board of directors was okay to sign the AA as it indicated that what was needed was only shareholders’ approval.

It is interesting to note that Maxis shares are not very well spread out for a company of its size, with a market capitalisation of RM30 billion. Ananda Krishnan’s BGSM Equity Holdings Sdn Bhd owns 63% of the company. The other substantial shareholders are the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) with 12% and Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) with 5%.

This effectively means that it is BGSM/Ananda Krishnan who will decide at the EGM whether to vote for or against signing with DNB to enable Maxis to provide 5G services to its customers. Wouldn’t it be simpler and faster for members of the board of directors representing BGSM to say whether BGSM supports the AA? 

Is the EGM reason for not signing up just an excuse for Maxis to delay the AA with DNB? But why does it want to delay signing when there is a cost to signing up late? Its competitors — Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile and Yes (YTL) — which signed up by the Oct 30 deadline will enjoy a discount from DNB (calculated via a minimum capacity usage formula).

The only reason one can think of for Maxis not wanting to sign yet is perhaps it is banking on a new government with a new cabinet after the general election on Nov 19 reversing the policy of having government-owned DNB as the Single Wholesale Network (SWN) provider — and that Maxis will be allowed to build its own 5G infrastructure.

If that happens, it will be a major policy flip-flop. If it doesn’t happen, and Maxis still refuses to sign the AA, it will mean that Maxis customers will have no access to 5G services. This would be a blow to businesses and industries who are Maxis clients who need the high-speed 5G connection to automate their operations.

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