Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile welcome govt decision to rollout 5G via Single Wholesale Network

After failing to convince the government to adopt a Dual Wholesale Network (DWN), the big four telcos  —  Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile, have jointly announced that they welcome the Cabinet’s decision to continue with the Single Wholesale Network (SWN) model for 5G deployment as well as the offer to take up an equity stake in Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).

The telcos said they will engage with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, MCMC and key industry players on further details on the implementation of 5G via the SWN including the proposed shareholding offer and transaction process.

The big four also said that it believes that a successful 5G deployment in Malaysia will be built on the principles of transparency, sustainability, and security.

As announced last Wednesday, the government had offered to reduce its stake in DNB from 100 per cent to 30 per cent, allowing telcos to acquire equity of 70 per cent. Details of ownership and equity valuation are subject to discussions between DNB and the telcos.

DNB has also announced that it welcomes the government’s decision to retain the SWN model and it is extending the free 5G network access to telcos until 30th June 2022 to facilitate a seamless transition. At the moment, DNB covers select areas in Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya, and Putrajaya, and they are currently expanding to other states including Johor. It aims to achieve 80 per cent 5G population coverage by 2024.

DNB is a state-owned special purpose vehicle under the Ministry of Finance that is given the mandate to roll out 5G on cost recovery and supply-led model. It currently holds a 40MHz block of the 700MHz spectrum, a 200MHz block of the 3.5GHz spectrum, and a 1600MHz block of the 26/28GHz (mmWave) spectrum. Within four months after DNB is established, it appointed Ericsson as their technology vendor out of a total of 4 vendors to build the national 5G network.

Ericsson recently announced that DNB will be the first 5G commercial network in the world to use Dynamic Radio Resource Partitioning (DRP). The 5G RAN slicing aspect of the network will allow telcos on the network to have differentiation and guaranteed performance needed to monetise 5G investments with diverse use cases. While multiple telcos can tap onto the same network, RAN slicing will dynamically optimise allocation and prioritisation of resources for guaranteed fulfilment of SLAs required.

At the moment, the big four telcos have not revealed any timeline of when they will offer 5G services via DNB’s network. If implemented successfully, Malaysia’s SWN model would be an example for the world as other existing SWN projects have failed or struggled. Recently, South Africa has decided to scrap their plans to launch its SWN while Mexico regulators have given their struggling SWN, Red Compartida, a further four-year extension to deliver its 92.5 per cent population coverage target.

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