Category Archives: U Mobile

U Mobile says no to stake in DNB, to go solo on 5G

Telecommunications company U Mobile Sdn Bhd said today it has rejected the government’s proposal to all major telcos to purchase a stake in Digital Nasional Berhad’s (DNB) for the 5G roll-out, via its share subscription agreement (SSA).

In a statement today, U Mobile said that it would be going solo in offering its 5G services and products to consumers.

“U Mobile has had extensive discussions and deliberations on the matter and after taking into consideration the terms of the investment as it currently stands, the telco has decided that it will not pursue the investment option in DNB.

“The telco believes it would better serve Malaysians by focusing on its strengths of providing innovative and unbeatable connectivity and digital services, that would realise the full potential of 5G technology. The telco’s decision not to invest in DNB does not affect its ability to provide 5G services to customers as access to DNB’s 5G network infrastructure is governed by a separate access agreement, which is not linked to the equity investment in DNB,” it said.

DNB was established in early March 2021 to accelerate the deployment of 5G infrastructure and network in Malaysia. It will offer 5G as a wholesale network service to other telcos.

Putrajaya has been in constant negotiations with telcos in the country over the rollout of 5G, with telcos constantly pushing back for more favourable terms — advocating for a dual wholesale network (DWN) model instead of the government’s single wholesale network (SWN) — which they claim would provide better optimising availability and pricing of 5G.

U Mobile said that the company and other telcos are in discussions to finalise the 5G access agreement with DNB.

“Once it is finalised and signed, DNB’s 5G access when combined with U Mobile’s existing 4G network will enable U Mobile customers to enjoy a truly seamless connectivity experience. U Mobile has full faith that DNB will be on schedule for the deployment of quality 5G network infrastructure and that it will carry out the government’s mandate to provide wholesale 5G coverage and capacity on an equitable and non-discriminatory basis via the 5G access agreement.

“U Mobile has been testing 5G services and is looking forward to our customers enjoying the full benefits of 5G with our 5G-ready products and services soon,” it added.

DNB yesterday said that the SSAs will be revised to accommodate just the four remaining major telecommunications firms, after being rejected by two mobile network operators (MNOs).

The national 5G agency said it considered the SSAs finalised and ready to be executed with the six mobile carriers yesterday, but two ultimately did not continue.

DNB said that one operator decided not to proceed while the other did not respond despite its confirmation to participate earlier.

The firm did not name the carriers, although it was earlier reported that Maxis Bhd and U Mobile had declined to take up the shareholder agreement after negotiations did not meet their requirements.

Reuters report quoting sources said that the two mobile carriers declined the offer after the government knocked back a proposal that four carriers — Maxis, U Mobile, along with Celcom Axiata Bhd and DiGi Telecommunications — take a combined majority stake in the agency.

But the government had instead asked six mobile operators in the country to agree to take up a combined 70 per cent stake in the agency, but Maxis and U Mobile reportedly declined, as they could not see the benefits of being a minority shareholder.

Maxis and U Mobile could not see benefits in being a minority shareholder in DNB, according to two of the sources, who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to talk about the private negotiations.

Despite the development, however, DNB said that discussions on the 5G access agreements were progressing with all six major mobile carriers in the country and that the rollout plan is on track.

Malaysia’s 5g Turmoil Continues As Operators Refuse Stakes In Dnb


Malaysia’s relatively unique approach to 5G continues to prove disastrous, with sources this week suggesting that two of the nation’s telcos will not buy a stake in Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) after all.

The government set up DNB early in 2021, aiming to create a single national 5G operator from which the country’s other 5G operators could rent 5G services. At the time, the government said this would be more efficient and cost-effective than the operators rolling out the infrastructure themselves, noting that the plan eliminated potential overbuild.

The operators, however, said that this plan would be more expensive for them than deploying 5G themselves, with many refusing to engage with DNB at all.

Over the past year, the government has taken various measures to make partnering with DNB more attractive, ultimately settling on a plan that would see 70% of DNB’s ownership handed over to the country’s six mobile operators in individual minority stakes.

By August 2022, the government finally seemed hopeful that the nation’s operators were ready to buy-in, literally, to the government’s 5G vision, with Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz telling the media that the last holdouts –Maxis and U Mobile – had confirmed they would take a stake in DNB.

The two operators, alongside rivals Celcom Axiata and DiGi Telecommunications, had previously argued that they should allowed to own a combined majority stake, though this plan was rejected by the government.

Instead, the Malaysian state began floating the idea that foreign companies could take the place of domestic operators in owning a piece of DNB if necessary, with Tengku Zafrul noting interest had been received from companies in India, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

“There are many who have registered strong interest […] because to them there is no more capex. And then they say we have got the technology and we know how to play the game,” he explained.

Now, however, it seems that discussions have fallen at the last hurdle, with sources suggesting that Maxis and U Mobile are refusing a stake in DNB. According to reports, the two operators still believe there is little value in taking a majority stake in the business but wanted to continue talks about gaining access to DNB’s network.

Without the participation of Maxis and U Mobile, the stake sale process itself is potentially scuppered, with sources suggesting that “(the parties) will have to try and restructure the deal”.

It is possible that the four participating operators will simply have their potential stakes increased to absorb the missing stakes of Maxis and U Mobile, though even this simple solution will require new approvals and will thus delay the country’s 5G rollout yet further.

Malaysia is one of the last countries in Southeast Asia to launch commercial 5G services, with many of its neighbours having been enjoying such technology for over a year now.

Malaysian minister wants to issue licences to new players if telcos refuse to sign up for DNB’s 5G access

With 9 days remaining until the 30th June 2022 deadline, Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa (Pic) said he will issue new licences to new players if the number of companies participating in the 5G rollout is not enough. The government has issued an ultimatum to the big four telcos such as Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile to take up Digital Nasional Berhad’s (DNB) 5G wholesale offer or risk being left behind. 

As reported by Bernama during the 2021 K-KOMM Excellence Service Awards (APC) ceremony held yesterday, Annuar said negotiations on a service agreement between the telcos and DNB for the implementation of the country’s 5G Network were still ongoing. He said, “I have high confidence that all telco companies do not want to be left behind in providing 5G, which is why we take the policy of inviting everyone to come on board, but we cannot force them to join.

“Any company that participates to roll out 5G, we will continue. If the number of companies is not enough, I will issue licences to new players. I’m not going to wait for anybody. I did say, please think about the importance of the national interest.”

The Minister added, “We want to roll out 5G according to plan and the government has given space for existing players to come on board. Hence, we have set a deadline that we feel is more than enough. Let them complete the negotiation.”

At the moment, only YTL Communications and Telekom Malaysia have apparently agreed to sign up and take an equity stake with DNB’s 5G wholesale access offer but YTL’s Yes 5G remains the first and only telco to provide commercial 5G services in Malaysia. DNB’s 5G network currently covers select areas of Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya and Putrajaya, and they are expanding into more states including Johor and Penang. 

The big four telcos have been reluctant to sign up with DNB highlighting concerns that the current reference access offer (RAO) does not enable affordable and quality 5G services to consumers. Some of the pressing issues include wholesale pricing that’s locked to a 10-year period and the overall cost to “rent” from DNB is higher than building their own 5G network. It was also reported that the government will consider opening equity stakes for DNB to private equity both private and foreign if the big four telcos are not interested in taking up the offer.

The suggestion to increase the number of telcos doesn’t seem to address the current 5G stalemate as the big four telcos currently command over 90% of total mobile subscriptions and collectively offer 95.5% 4G population coverage throughout the country. Malaysia already has a vibrant and competitive mobile landscape with a total of 9 companies being allocated spectrum to run mobile services. This includes Celcom, Digi, Maxis, U Mobile Asiaspace, Altel, Redtone, YTL Communications and TM. On top of that, there are dozens more mobile network virtual operators (MVNO) that tap on existing networks to offer retail mobile services. 

If there’s a new player in town, it will be tough to sway consumers from the big four telcos if they don’t provide coverage improvements. Even with YTL and TM having access to 4G spectrum and 5G via DNB, they are still considered small players in the field as their mobile coverage especially for indoors and rural areas is limited compared to Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile. Since the government has announced the single wholesale network approach, there’s no opportunity for new players to compete in network coverage and they would have to rely on DNB’s network which will take years for it to achieve a substantial 5G footprint nationwide.

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.

ZTE’s dual band massive MIMO trials with U-Mobile bears great results and 5G Promise

Telco operators in Malaysia are warming up to the potential of massive antenna arrays, otherwise known as Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output).

The ability to increase the spectrum efficiency by about 2-fold in comparison with traditional macro sites has motivated many telcos to consider modernising some parts of their network building strategies.

Recently, ZTE’s esteemed customer, U Mobile, successfully conducted the first LTE FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) Massive MIMO, field trials in Malaysia using ZTE’s latest product, the latest FDD Massive MIMO dual-band active antenna system (AAS).

The equipment works in dual band of 1800MHz and 2100MHz simultaneously. With 32 transmitters and 32 receivers (32TR) massive MIMO configuration and advanced algorithms, the latest Active antenna product significantly enhances spectral efficiency, increases data rates, and extends cell coverage. In real life, it achieves more than 2.13 capacity improvements compared to existing dual-antenna macro base stations.

The trial with U Mobile began in November 2021 in the Klang Valley and was completed a month later.

ZTE and the telco deployed 32 transmitters and 32 receivers (32TR) with 128 antenna elements. Traditionally up to 6 remote radios units would be required to provide coverage in the same area, however using the latest ZTE compact dual and products, U Mobile managed to save equipment space as well as installation and O&M costs.

U Mobile’s Senior General Manager of Network Architecture and Planning, Quat Ou Jeng, said: “U Mobile’s purpose is all about unleashing every potential, hence we are delighted to have collaborated with our long-term partner ZTE for the recent Dual-Band Massive MIMO Trials. The results have been very encouraging and show that its dual-band FDD MM is capable of alleviating 4G capacity bottlenecks at high traffic sites; this is especially relevant as connectivity demands have increased dramatically. U Mobile looks forward to more collaborations with ZTE.”

ZTE’s Managing Director for Malaysia, Steven Ge, said: “ZTE will continue to optimise FMM, which is the most proper 5G technology applicable to 4G and follows the 3GPP standardisation of Massive MIMO technology, leading the way from 4G to 5G and provide quality services. We will continue to support our customers through our leading-edge equipment and give them confidence through extensive field trials to validate their potential.”

ZTE’s FMM trials in Malaysia and elsewhere have shown that it can modernise the network and can alleviate the capacity bottlenecks of high traffic sites, though site selection criteria need to be carefully defined before implementing the FMM solution.

ZTE’s latest AAU equipment boasts high output power, large capacity while minimising interference. With 128 antennas elements, more independent data streams can be transmitted simultaneously, with trials demonstrating that it can achieve more than 2.13 times capacity improvement compared to existing 2*2 MIMO macro base stations.

While greatly improving the overall cell capacity with the same spectrum resources, the product manages to drastically reduce the interference for inter-users through a highly precise channel estimation algorithm and advanced pre-coding technology. This greatly reduces the inference caused by various user equipment which are in the same cell.

Furthermore, ZTE’s advanced technology of hybrid cell and dual-frequency band equipment enhances user experience and enables further connectivity to the end-users.