PETALING JAYA: A mobile network trade body has urged the government to allow mobile network operators (MNOs) to launch their own 5G networks to boost adoption of the technology in Malaysia.
Julian Gorman, Asia-Pacific head of UK-based Global System for Mobile Communications Association, said Putrajaya should have a responsive and flexible policy and reinstate “technology neutrality”, to enable MNOs to provide services to consumers without constraints or prescriptions on the choice of equipment and infrastructure.
“Infrastructure competition is crucial to foster innovation, enabling Malaysia to compete with its regional peers, such as India and Indonesia,” Gorman told FMT Business.
“Without competition, the incentive and motivation for innovation and investment that explore the boundaries of 5G’s potential in Malaysia will lag behind regional peers,” he said.
Last Sunday, it was reported that the government is mulling the introduction of a second 5G network in January next year, as part of a move to dismantle monopolies and promote competition.
Quoting sources, Reuters reported that the government is considering introducing another network to challenge Digital Nasional Bhd’s (DNB) monopoly in the market.
DNB is a special-purpose vehicle under the finance ministry to undertake the nationwide deployment of 5G.
Gorman said it would be “a step in the right direction” if Putrajaya decided to introduce a second 5G network.
He said a second network involving one or more MNOs would be expected to roll out 5G faster than DNB, as this network would have access to existing infrastructure and established supply chains and vendor relations.
Malaysia lagging behind
Communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil reportedly said it was a positive development that the 5G network coverage in Malaysia had reached 55% as of March 31. He said this showed the government was on track to ensure that 80% of populated areas would get 5G network coverage by end 2023.
However, Gorman said, data obtained by his association showed that only 1% of consumers had adopted 5G in 2022, putting Malaysia behind neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“The key indicator of 5G success should lie in innovation and adoption rate rather than population coverage,” he said.
Collaboration and innovation will be crucial for mobile operators to determine how best to achieve their own commercial targets and Malaysia’s broader digital development goals, he added.
Former Jaring CEO Mohamed Awang Lah said the government should not ignore more fundamental problems such as dropped calls and slow broadband in many areas throughout the country, while addressing DNB’s governance and monopoly issues.
He said telecommunications companies were not willing to invest in more cell towers to improve coverage on highways and in remote areas due to high costs and unreliable backhaul.