Wednesday 21 Feb 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on April 12, 2021 - April 18, 2021

DIGITAL Nasional Bhd (DNB), the Ministry of Finance-owned special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will undertake the deployment of 5G infrastructure and network nationwide, has invited eight companies — all global network equipment providers — to participate in its 5G infrastructure tender, according to sources.

It is understood that the eight companies are Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, Chinese multinational corporations Huawei and ZTE, American multinational technology firm Cisco, Japanese multinational NEC, Finnish multinational telecommunications and technology company Nokia, South Korean multinational conglomerate Samsung and FiberHome, an information and communications technology network products and solutions provider in China.

“These companies are expected to give their views on building Malaysia’s national 5G network, and are also expected to come up with end-to-end solutions that will address the country’s 5G needs. Given that these are multinationals with a global presence, the importance of local participation has been emphasised by DNB to these companies,” says a source familiar with the matter.

It is understood that a stringent tender management system has been put in place by DNB to ensure that the right controls are there throughout the process, including a complete set of governance procedures that will be supervised by a tender committee.

The tender submissions by the interested companies will be evaluated on several key criteria, including technical competency in implementing a nationwide 5G network, their ability to integrate with major telecommunications networks in the country, innovative financing solutions, and their ability to support local vendor development.

According to one of the sources, the tender exercise is expected to be finalised by the middle of this year, with the appointed company slated to commence work on the 5G infrastructure thereafter.

“DNB is expecting to roll out the first 5G network in the country before the end of the year, with Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and some parts of Kuala Lumpur to be the first to experience 5G in the country. The 5G network will then be expanded to 17 major cities in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak in 2022 and 2023,” says the source.

“Apart from increasing 5G network adoption among Malaysians, it is hoped that the companies participating in the tender will look at ways to create high-value jobs in the country through the 5G ecosystem rollout.”

The government, through DNB, will be investing RM15 billion over 10 years to roll out the 5G network nationwide. The SPV will offer 5G services via a wholesale model that is regulated to ensure better transparency and implementation. The SPV was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Feb 18, when he unveiled the MyDIGITAL initiative.

The government said at the time that DNB will be managed based on the appropriate governance framework, an open tender process for the 5G infrastructure development and global best practices to ensure proper controls. Through their engagement with the SPV, all telecommunications service providers will have open, fair and equal access in obtaining wholesale 5G network services for the development of retail services based on 5G technology.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz said that it is imperative for Malaysia’s 5G network to be deployed quickly, systematically and professionally to accelerate its growth initiatives through MyDIGITAL, which aims to ensure socioeconomic progress and inclusivity for all Malaysians.

DNB is licensed to operate under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, and as such is subject to the regulatory oversight of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) — just like any other licensee in the communications and multimedia industry, notwithstanding the fact that the entity is wholly owned by the government.

The SPV is chaired by Ministry of Finance secretary-general Datuk Asri Hamidon while Augustus Ralph Marshall, who oversaw the rollout of Maxis Bhd and Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd’s networks, is its CEO.

Other board members that have been appointed include Datuk Seri Dr Yusof Ismail, who is director-general of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), former MCMC chairman Datuk Mohamed Shahril Tarmizi and Datuk Muthanna Abdullah, a consultant with law firm Abdullah Chan & Co.


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