Malaysia is in the midst of their 5G rollout, which they have been planning since 2018. Their 5G rollout model introduces a novel approach, which offers 5G as a Single Wholesale Network (SWN) service to various local Communication Service Providers (CSPs). Instead of auctioning 5G spectrum to private companies, Malaysia established a new Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) entity under the Ministry of Finance called Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) in March 2021. DNB owns the spectrum licences and will build out the physical network infrastructure, and offer the network as wholesale and local CSPs will offer the network to the public as retail.
In a statement published by the the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission MCMC in March 2021, they state that “by removing the need for existing telecommunications companies to invest in 5G networks, their efforts and resources can continue to be focused on improving and expanding 4G services and fibre networks under National Digital Network plan (JENDELA) so crucial for the success of 5G deployment. This at the same time will ensure that the digital gap can be minimised.” Malaysia’s average mobile speed currently lags behind Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, which all have already launched their 5G services.
JENDELA is the Malaysian Ministry of Communications and Multimedia initiatives since September 2019 in efforts to strengthen the level of connectivity and quality of communication for populated and rural areas. The 3G network was expected to be shut down by end of year 2021 as to encourage the public towards 4G usage and better prepared for 5G faster and more stable network towards realising the Industrial Revolution 4.0.
Malaysia was supposed to launch 5G under a private-led consortium in 2020, but the new government decided to put the 5G plans on hold until MyDigital was launched. The Malaysian government allocated the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz spectrum to DNB and it’s 5G network went live on 15th December 2021. Currently, the only company that is offering 5G services to the public with the DNB network is YES by YTL Communications. TM also agreed to participate in DNB’s 5G user trial, which ends in March 31, but their 5G service is still not available.
On February 18, the rest of the CSPs Celcom Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Maxis and U Mobile disclosed in a statement that they have recommended a Dual Wholesale Network (DWN) model to the Malaysian government. This DWN model would be operated by the DNB and the MNOs who are ready to invest.
The DNB chief’s executive Ralph Marshall has warned that a dual wholesale network will have “enormous implications”. In one scenario, if the DNB fails, the second wholesale provider would eventually become a private SWN monopoly and the government will have to pay substantial amounts of compensations and penalties for early termination of contracts. Using a DWM model to implement 5G will create confusion in the market, according to adviser to the United Nation (UN) on 5G strategy and policy Brett Haan.
- Avoiding duplication of costs and maximising efficiency. In this case, having more than one infrastructure network means significant duplication and higher costs, which end up as higher prices for consumers.
- Coverage in the less densely populated areas. The Malaysian government has stated unequivocally that digital services are a basic right for all Malaysians.
- Increased quality and better service levels. By not having to invest in infrastructure, the telcos have a bigger incentive to compete with quality.
- Faster 5G rollout compared to 4G. The DNB’s goal is to reach coverage by 39% of the population at the end of this year, 73% in the following year and 86% by 2024.
- Wholesale costs. If the Malaysian government opts for a Single Wholesale Network (SWN), the MNOs might have to pay upfront to the DNB, even if their 5G services are slow to monetise.
- Impact on speed. According to Scott Minehane from Windsor Place Consulting Pte Ltd, the speed will be affected negatively, as effectively all of the traffic in a spectrum is funnelled into one provider. When you have less spectrum, this one provider has less ability – at least on the radio side – to provide a high-speed service.
- Cost efficiency in deploying 5G networks. How will the government and regulator ensure that the DNB has incurred an efficient cost in the absence of competitive pressure on network deployment?
The debate whether Malaysia should adopt a single wholesale network or dual wholesale network model will still continue next month, while the Malaysian government is still considering the SWN model for 5G. It would be interesting to see if the challenges arising from existing SWN, from other parts of the World shall serve as learning lessons for the Malaysian DNB in their policy making and 5G deployment strategies for months to come.
Omnitele supports regulators in spectrum strategy definitions by delivering spectrum valuation services. It is important to understand the costs related to new spectrum band and bandwidth alternatives when creating a spectrum strategy that may include participation in 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz or 26 GHz 5G auctions or in re-auctioning of 900, 1800 or 2100 MHz bands.
How can Omnitele assist in improving the performance of shared networks?
Omnitele has assisted many MNOs by designing high quality shared and consolidated MOCN (shared RAN and with pooled spectrum) and MORAN (shared RAN but with separate spectrum) networks. The design criteria includes coverage improvement, combined customer base capacity prediction, reduction of sites, measuring, benchmarking, and improving the Quality of Service.
Read more about how Omnitele has assisted customers here and here.
Why customers select Omnitele for their planning RAN network sharing:
Omnitele’s NPS customer satisfaction score has consistently been 90% or more, and from the feedback we commonly identify the appreciation of Omnitele result oriented shared network design methodologies. Omnitele’s field proven shared network support covers the following domains: Strategy formation, coverage integration, capacity and spectrum integration, benchmarking, implementation and verification, backhaul transmission and capacity design, high and low level design.
Learn more about our shared network support here.
This article has been written with the collaboration of eticonsult Malaysia.
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