PETALING JAYA: Steps will be taken to ensure healthy competition between the two 5G service providers when both begin operations next year, communications and digital minister Fahmi Fadzil said.
This is for the benefit of end users, comprising individual private users as well as enterprises and business owners, he said in an exclusive interview with FMT recently.
“We don’t want one to be too strong compared to the other. When there is healthy competition in the market it’s the end users who will benefit,” he said.
However, he said, it has yet to be decided which of the two providers each of the mobile network operators (MNOs) will go to.
“The MNOs will offer their suggestions but it is the MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) that will oversee the process,” he said.
Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) was set up as a special purpose vehicle by the government in 2021 to build a 5G network under a single wholesale network model.
However on May 3, the government announced that DNB would no longer be the sole 5G service provider. Instead, a new provider will enter the market next year, alongside DNB.
DNB has been given until the end of this year to ensure coverage of at least 80% of populated areas, after which the second service provider will enter the market.
DNB will be designated as Entity A, and the new company — known as Entity B for now — will then share the responsibility of extending 5G service to end users nationwide under a duopoly.
Speedy service assured
Fahmi also gave an assurance that service would not deteriorate with competition, as evident in South Korea where there are three service providers working side by side.
In fact, he said, he had been informed by internet speed test service provider Ookla that the service in Malaysia is already one of the fastest in the world.
This is despite the fact that Malaysia now uses only half of the 200MHz band apportioned to 5G.
“We are already 10mbps faster than South Korea,” he said. “At the last reading I saw, we were clocking 340mbps.”
Fahmi added that at just half the bandwidth provided, internet speed in Malaysia is already among the world’s fastest.
He said that once the access agreements are signed and everything else is in place, more users are expected to move on to 5G.
Fahmi said the MCMC will continue to provide the regulatory oversight, and it will have full power to act against any behaviour deemed anti-competitive.
He said the close working relationship among the MCMC, MNOs and DNB would ensure that the rights of users are protected even in a duopoly.
Beefing up defences on the internet
Fahmi said there are three key areas that the government will have to look into if Malaysia is to make it into its “golden digital decade”.
Firstly, it is important that the infrastructure for both 5G and 4G network sharing solutions is improved to prevent dropped calls, a problem that has hounded users since the switch from 3G to 4G.
“Secondly, data protection has to be enhanced and thirdly, we have to drive investment to the digital economy and scale up businesses there,” he said.
The National Cyber Security Agency (Nacsa), which comes under the ministry, is responsible for ensuring security online under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).
Fahmi said that to enhance security, the PDPA will have to be amended to make it more robust in line with the many changes since it was passed in 2010.
Over and above that, the Cyber Security Bill will be tabled in parliament either late this year or early next year to compel industry players to ensure that their cybersecurity system is up to date.
“Apart from protecting private and public data, we must also ensure safe data portability, data sovereignty and data sharing,” he added.
Appointment of CEO
Fahmi said his ministry has also proposed “some options” for appointment as CEO of DNB but the final decision rests with the finance ministry (MoF).
“We want a CEO named soon so he and the board of directors can provide direction for the company,” Fahmi said.
The position was left vacant when telecommunications industry veteran Ralph Marshall, who was made the first CEO of DNB, did not renew his contract when it expired in March last year.
While the digital and multimedia ministry (KKD) has oversight of the company, appointments are made by the MoF.
Fahmi said a strong and capable CEO to manage DNB is essential given the decision to abandon the monopoly in favour of a duopoly.
He added that several problems were still waiting to be solved but the move towards full 5G coverage for Malaysia would continue.