Malaysia to Allow Second Entity to Deploy 5G Network Despite Western Scrutiny

Malaysia said that it will form a dual network model for its 5G deployment in 2024. The move comes after concerns arose about the prices and competition or the lack of it due to the single state-backed operator providing the fifth-generation mobile network service.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made the decision that aims at ending monopolies and promoting competition. However, the decision might now go well with Western countries as experts say they would have wanted the East Asian country to hold on to their original plan.

Initially, the country had a plan for the state-owned Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) to get all the 5G spectrum and multiple carriers to get the infrastructure to deploy their mobile services.

However, making the radical decision change, now the government will allow another entity to join the 5G fray when DNB’s coverage reaches 80 percent in densely populated areas, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil has said.

Malaysia has already got 50 percent of its population connected by 5G and the next year would be crucial as the country seeks to take a massive leap in cellular technology.

“This model also takes into account the sustainability of the telecommunications industry ecosystem in Malaysia thus ending the monopoly element that is often associated with DNB,” Fahmi said.

Currently, DNB has reached 57.8% coverage in populated areas and could likely achieve the 80% coverage mark by the end of 2023.

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The previous government had rejected concerns of monopoly, transparency, and other industry concerns due to a single entity running a 5G network. In November 2022, Anwar hinted at a policy change after taking office in November 2022.

But DNB refuted the claim and said that it would reduce costs, improve network efficiency and accelerate infrastructure building. The company has partnered with Swedish telecom giant Ericsson for 5G gears and the government allowing another 5G competition into the telecom industry could impact its own business prospects.

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Meanwhile, the decision has been met with scrutiny by the European Union and the US who argued that the move could put risks to national security as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has made a bid to supply telecom gears. Malaysia would be neutral though in commercial 5G operation, said Fahmi.

“As a sovereign country, Malaysia has the right and power to set our own policies without the interference of other parties,” he said.

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