Saturday 02 Dec 2023
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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 22): Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has scheduled a meeting with local mobile network operators (MNOs) to discuss the matter of them levying extra charges for migrating subscribers to the 5G network, which would ultimately increase the retail price of the service.

“Not all of them charge extra, I know YTL doesn’t. I will be meeting with the CEOs soon, to coordinate this matter. We understand that there might be some onboarding process for them, but we hope that they can address some of these concerns,” he told reporters after officiating the Islamic Digital Economy Industry Conference 2023 on Tuesday (Aug 22).

Certain MNOs in Malaysia have required subscribers to pay an additional premium, ranging between RM3 and RM20, on top of existing phone bills, to gain access to the 5G network.

“My wife is hesitant about taking up 5G, because she says when we converted from 3G to 4G, we didn’t have to pay anything, but now why do we have to pay? It is a valid question, and one asked by the minister’s wife to the minister, so I have to find an appropriate answer,” said Fahmi.

Nonetheless, MNOs are slated to announce a series of affordable 5G packages come National Day on Aug 31, according to him.

“I have not yet met with the CEOs, but we have been very focused on getting both the 5G access agreement as well as equity participation in DNB (Digital Nasional Bhd) to completion.

“Going forward, these are some of the discussions that we intend to have, including, Insyaallah, on Aug 31, on National Day, the MNOs will be announcing their respective [5G Rahmah packages]. We hope by that time, some of these things will also be addressed,” he said.

Malaysia’s 5G network retail prices are expected to be cheaper than current 4G internet plans given that the infrastructure was built under single wholesale network (SWN) provider DNB, and is shared among all MNOs.

The shared infrastructure model, which lowered the capital expenditure requirement to build up the 5G network in Malaysia by preventing duplication of infrastructure, was expected to cost less than the current 4G network, where MNOs with spectrum ownership build their own set of infrastructure.

Under the SWN model, DNB owns the 5G spectrum and network assets, and leases them to MNOs with a reference access offer of RM30,000 per Gbps per month, translating into 13 sen per gigabyte, according to Deputy Communications and Digital Minister Teo Nie Ching’s statement to Parliament in March.

“We believe as our 5G network achieves wider coverage, our internet prices can be reduced further,” said Teo, according to the Dewan Rakyat’s Hansard.

In May this year, Putrajaya has announced a policy shift, to replace the SWN with a dual network (DN) model once coverage of populated areas (COPA) hit 80%, saying it wants to avoid having the entire nation's 5G network rely on a single point.

On Tuesday, Fahmi said under the DN model, DNB will serve half of the nation’s MNOs, while the remaining half of the industry will rely on services provided by an Entity B, which has yet to be determined.

“Right now, we are on track, we anticipate reaching 80% COPA by end of this year or at the latest by early next year, and once that has been reached, then we will enable two entities to operate 5G.

“The first one is DNB, in which half of the MNOs will work with DNB, and another half will work with an Entity B that is to be announced. Entity A is DNB,” he said.

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Edited ByLam Jian Wyn & Isabelle Francis
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