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Better 5G will strengthen Malaysia’s business attractiveness

Better 5G will strengthen Malaysia’s business attractiveness

01 Dec 2023

By Yong Soo Heong

IT’S not always that Malaysia gets recognised as among the top in the world for something. In days gone by, we were the top rubber, tin and palm oil producers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were the supreme rubber glove makers.

In recent times, Malaysia was named one of the top three 5G network performers in the world, after the United Arab Emirates and South Korea.

Work on the nationwide 5G network began earnestly after the establishment of Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) in 2021.

Work is one year ahead of schedule and without any cost overruns. To date, 5G coverage has expanded to more than 70 per cent of the country.

The performance of 5G networks is much stronger than 4G, with the former providing 13 times faster download speeds and five times faster upload speeds than the latter.

Simply put, it’s the latest generation of cellular technology delivering faster, more reliable and lower latency connectivity.

Ookla, a Web testing and network diagnostics company, recently showed how much Malaysia has progressed; it now ranks third globally for 5G download speed — 485.25Mbps — according to Speedtest Intelligence data for the third quarter of 2023.

Malaysia’s position on the Speedtest Global Index also improved, climbing 45 places from 86th in September 2021 to 41st in September 2023, ahead of neighbours Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as some developed markets like the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany.

Kudos to the Communications and Digital Ministry for overseeing this feat that is part of efforts to revolutionise our everyday experiences and open up a future of unparalleled possibilities.

The possibilities involve a potential gross domestic product boost of RM150 billion and 750,000 new jobs by 2030. Other benefits include enhancing economic sectors like oil and gas, ports, tourism, education, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, retail, as well as utilities.

DNB’s primary role is to roll out a single wholesale network for 5G. This is aimed at centralising the infrastructure rollout, promoting efficient use of resources, cost savings and equitable 5G access across urban and rural populations.

The 5G network rollout by DNB, an entity under the Minister of Finance Inc, is expected to cost RM16.5 billion between now and 2030, with RM12.5 billion for network equipment and infrastructure and RM4 billion for corporate expenditure. And the deployment will be financed exclusively by the private sector.

The RM12.5 billion compares favourably with the estimates of the MyDIGITAL Blueprint and National 5G Task Force Report of December 2019, which put the incremental cost of upgrading just one 4G network to 5G at RM7.5 billion.

Based on the task force’s estimates, the deployment of the 5G network collectively by the four major telcos would likely cost more than RM30 billion.

It appears that everything is humming along fine for the 5G rollout as all six local telcos have signed the access agreement with DNB and coverage is expected to reach 80 per cent by the end of this year. The telcos, however, have yet to sign the subscription agreement with DNB, as they are ironing out a few details.

There are also plans to have another entity run a second 5G network. Two 5G networks will certainly contribute positively to the national digitalisation agenda. But will having two be overkill? That question is perhaps best answered by those in the know.

Some also wonder whether 5G wholesale network entities may eventually be privatised and left to the telcos to operate. If this were to be the case, then what priorities come first — national interest or profitability?

Industry insiders stress that even if the government were to pursue a privatised two-entity scenario, it should still be in the driver’s seat to ensure oversight for the benefit of the people.

As for telecommunication equipment supplies and installation, they believe that given the government’s open-door policy, all infrastructure equipment vendors, either Western or non-Western, should have ample opportunities for core networks, private networks, fibre connections and backhaul, to name a few.

In the final analysis, efficient access to 5G at competitive rates is paramount to the people and will reinforce Malaysia’s position as an attractive business location.

The writer is a former Bernama chief executive officer and editor-in-chief

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

Source: NST