Govt to decide on 5G roll-out on March 11: Annuar

KUALA LUMPUR – The government is expected to make a final decision on the nation’s 5G roll-out on March 11, following months-long standoff between telecommunications companies and the government over the proposed Digital Nasional Bhd’s (DNB) single wholesale network (SWN) model.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said his ministry and the Finance Ministry have completed a series of engagements with various parties on the matter.

“A cabinet minister’s memorandum has been completed and submitted to the secretariat,” he said in a Twitter post today.

“It is expected to be brought up for a decision (by the cabinet). All quarters are requested to not make any speculation about the matter.”

The decision next Friday is slated to end the debate on whether the Finance Ministry-owned DNB will set up the nation’s 5G infrastructure, or whether the country will see a dual wholesale network (DWN) proposed by the telcos.

Despite the telcos’ opposition to the proposed SWN model, citing concerns over competition, innovation, and monopolisation, the telcos have formed a consortium that wants to operate a secondary 5G network.

On February 18, Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile issued a joint statement saying they were ready to invest and see the DWN model as a “feasible option” that leverages the capabilities of mobile network operators (MNOs) and their existing resources.

So far, only service providers YES and Unifi Mobile have taken up DNB’s offer for 5G services as part of a pilot project in Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya, and Putrajaya, which began in mid-December.

The issue has also garnered polarising views from stakeholders and politicians.

Earlier today, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil called for a probe into DNB’s 5G network deal with Swedish telecommunications firm Ericsson over possible corruption.

This, after it was revealed through media reports that the United States Department of Justice is investigating Ericsson over years of alleged corruption in several countries.

In the Dewan Rakyat, Fahmi said the allegations against the communications firm are huge as they involve its global business activities, noting that DNB signed an agreement with the company in July last year to be its 5G network equipment provider.

Last week, Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming lambasted the telcos for placing profits above the welfare of the customers, adding that they are unlikely to roll out the technology rapidly.

He added that the telcos were not willing to engage the public on the issues that are raised.

Ong said although the SWN offered by DNB have more risks, the roll-out would be faster, especially to the rural and underserved areas, while DNB is also not operating on a demand-based model, unlike the telcos’ approach to providing 4G services.

His remarks echo a United Nations adviser’s belief that Malaysia will be better off with a 5G broadband spectrum provided by a SWN, as other models for its roll-out would be “confusing” for stakeholders and consumers in the country.

Brett Haan, an adviser to the United Nations and Brazil’s Economics Ministry on 5G strategy and policy, said although mobile network operators have raised several concerns, including the domino effect of failures due to a single source, the private telecommunications companies can also view the model as a basic utility for the people. 

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