KUALA LUMPUR (June 7): The entity to roll out Malaysia’s second 5G network will be allowed to overlap its coverage with the network under Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), said Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil on Wednesday (June 7).
Fahmi said once DNB’s 5G network reaches the target of 80% coverage of populated areas (CoPA) by end-2023 and “Entity B” is allowed to rollout the nation’s second network, the latter will not be constrained to the 20% remainder.
“What that means is actually you can build multiple networks side-by-side. The intent of the government is to enable 'Entity B', when it rolls out, to reach whatever level it feels necessary or comfortable,” Fahmi said during a panel discussion session at Invest Malaysia 2023 Series 2: Digital Malaysia: Tomorrow’s Infrastructure, Today.
This raises the question of impact on DNB's network, given that the second 5G network is widely expected to be built by the telcos. The government, meanwhile, has said DNB will be taken over by new entity once its targeted 80% 5G CoPA is achieved by the end of this year. The move would turn the government-owned 5G wholesale service network operator into a private company under the new entity.
“The 80% [CoPA] is not the be-all and end-all. It's a target partly set within the confines and constraints of the contract between DNB and Ericsson, but it is something we are committed to and then once we reach 80%, a second network can build up to its own 80% or more,” he added.
The government’s policy shift from the initial single wholesale network (SWN) model to a slated dual wholesale network (DWN) once DNB achieves 80% CoPA is based on the understanding of sustainably growing the telecommunication ecosystem, said Fahmi.
“[The government] is of the position that enabling a second network will allow for greater innovation and more specific products and services the second entity might want to give, particularly to its corporate clients or to organisations which may require specific tailor-made solutions — which if in the first instance, they may not be able to do so,” he said, adding that the DWN model will not only drive innovation but also competition.
“What’s particularly heartening to know, especially if you are a subscriber, is that mobile network operators (MNOs) have committed to a ‘no-worse-off’ rate for the wholesale price of 5G,” the minister said, citing the 13 sen per gigabit or RM30,000 per gigabytes per second wholesale rate baseline for both DNB and Entity B.
Meanwhile, touching on utilising CoPA as the metric for indicating coverage, Fahmi explained that it is the United Nations agency International Telecommunication Union’s reporting standard.
Treasury secretary general Datuk Johan Mahmood Merican added: “There's also a portion that involves inbuilding coverage but in some respects having the MNOs come in with a more active role. I think that involvement is probably going to be part of it — where MNOs will be providing solutions for enterprises which will probably include inbuilding coverage.”
In relation to this, Maxis chief executive officer Goh Seow Eng said a rollout of 5G repeaters — small electronic devices that take a wireless signal and amplify it across a local area — will be needed for inbuilding coverage, noting that this was also the case previously under 4G.
CelcomDigi Bhd deputy CEO Albern Murty said telcos are well positioned to speed up inbuilding coverage deployment as they already have footprints in terms of accessibility to premises.
“The other part is reach. We are able to reach those areas fairly quickly because today they have 4G and it's the natural next step that they want to have 5G in these areas,” he added.