AMCHAM adds its voice to Malaysia’s 5G saga, urges rapid deployment to ensure regional competitiveness (Opinion)

Written by Karamjit Singh, a respected and award-winning technology and business journalist.

First it was the governments of Australia, Japan, UK, the US and the economic bloc of the EU having their say. And now, the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) has chipped in on Malaysia’s 5G saga, reflecting the powerful voice of its members.

In a media statement on Fri, 4 March, highlighting the growing importance of connectivity for businesses in all sectors, Amcham expressed support for government efforts to address digital connectivity through initiatives like JENDELA and MyDigital, in improving and enhancing development across Malaysia.

Ensuring that there is fair, equitable, and competitive access to the nation’s digital infrastructure will help bridge the digital divide that impacts growth rates across different regions in the country, the chamber said, adding that it supports a plan of action that is transparent, competitive, and addresses information security needs, including data integrity, confidentiality, and availability.

These essential elements will benefit businesses and drive an outcome that is of the most benefit to the rakyat (public).

Noting that 5G will be around for many years to come, as a foundational technology, it needs to be reliable, robust, and secure, Amcham stressed.

Acknowledging Malaysia has built up a reputation as a preferred destination of foreign direct investment over the past five decades, the chamber reminds the government that this reputation is anchored on the track record of business-friendly policy-making, a judiciary that enforces the sanctity of contracts, and an eager and talented workforce continuously looking to improve their socio-economic standing.

Therefore, any decision that is made by the government on the issue of 5G rollouts, be it

SWN, DWN, MWN, or any other model has to take into account the following:

  • Firstly, the progress and investments that have already been made in the implementation of the rollout plan.
  • Secondly, the need to ensure that there is effective communication to the public and other stakeholders along with extensive consultation, transparency, and deliberation of issues impacting the rollout.
  • Thirdly, to ensure an effective model with extensive coverage to all citizens that will encourage greater foreign and domestic investment and unlock the full potential of Malaysia for future success.

Amcham said that investors, including its members, are keenly aware that any delay in the implementation of 5G in Malaysia will not only impact the country’s National Investment Aspirations (NIA) but could also have implications for the country’s competitive standing, especially among neighboring countries.

Amcham’s statement followed the unprecedented action in mid Feb when, news portal The Malay Mail broke the story that the governments of Australia, Japan, UK the US and the head of the EU to Malaysia had urged the government to not hurt investor confidence in the country by reviewing the 5G contract awarded in a competitive and transparent bid in June 2021, to Swedish telco vendor, Ericsson. More so when the decision to reconsider the contract did not seem tied to Ericsson’s performance in delivering its commitments.

The tender process and subsequent negotiations with Ericsson are acknowledged to have been conducted with the highest levels of transparency and corporate governance. Ericsson is also widely credited with doing an excellent so far in delivering on its commitments.

The parties urged the government to maintain the contract, stressing that is was critical to keeping investor confidence in Malaysia and for the country’s ambitions to be a hub for advanced technology and innovation.

In a tweet on 3 March, Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Annuar Musa said a decision will be made by the Cabinet on 11 March about the matter with a Cabinet Minister’s Memorandum prepared for deliberation.

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