Finally, 5G is live in Malaysia, Unifi Mobile and YES take lead to offer services

  • Customers now get a loud voice in ongoing debate about 5G approach
  • DNB’s Ralph Marshall takes risky pro-MNO approach for leasing capacity

YTL Communications Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer Wing K. Lee said, “We are excited to be the first in Malaysia to bring 5G to the Rakyat."

Amidst the latest (there have been a few) firestorm of protest over the single wholesale network (SWN) model Malaysia has opted for with its 5G rollout, Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) has delivered on the government’s promise of 5G services made available to Malaysians by Q4 2021.

In delivering so, it has made farcical one of the key claims of opponents to the SWN model – that the mobile network operators (MNOs) can roll out 5G quicker and more efficiently on their own.

But it was a muted event earlier today, where Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) on behalf of Unifi Mobile and YTL Communications Sdn Bhd on behalf of YES, became the first two operators in the country to provide 5G access to customers within certain areas throughout Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, and Kuala Lumpur.

The event marking Malaysia’s 5G availability through MNOs was supposed to be officiated by Annuar Musa, Minister of Communication and Multimedia, who pulled out early Wed morning. At an event last night that he officiated, the minister was already complaining to media of feeling under the weather.

Finally, 5G is live in Malaysia, Unifi Mobile and YES take lead to offer services

Under fire Ralph Marshall takes a pro-MNO stand at the risk of customer ire

DNB Chief Executive Officer Ralph Marshall (pic, above) welcomed TM and YTL Communications onto the DNB network. “We are pleased to welcome both TM and YTL Communications as our very first customers of the 5G network in Malaysia. TM is the country’s oldest  mobile telecommunications provider, having introduced services  nearly 40 years ago in 1984, while YTL Communications is the youngest and only  all-4G network provider in Malaysia.”

YTL Communications Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer Wing K. Lee said, “We are excited to be the first in Malaysia to bring 5G to the Rakyat, through our first-to market 5G plans. The availability of 5G, supported by DNB’s robust ecosystem will accelerate nationwide coverage and adoption of 5G. YTL Communications is committed to bringing a connected tomorrow to reality for all Malaysians.”

TM was conspicuous in not offering a quote in the press release issued by DNB, preferring to “remain balanced and neutral”, according to a senior executive.

Despite being in the firing line and taking withering criticism, some of it unprofessional, Ralph has continued to engage with telcos and has even taken a pro MNO stand that DNB will only deal with the MNOs in leasing its network capacity.

Finally, 5G is live in Malaysia, Unifi Mobile and YES take lead to offer servicesThis risks raising the ire of potential customers such as Aminuddin Abu Khalid (pic, left), CEO of Third Telecom Sdn Bhd, which aspires to be a first mover 5G MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). Aminuddun, who supports the government’s SWN model as “the best approach in transforming Malaysia’s Digital Economy, ensuring there is no digital divide,” nonetheless has a strong opinion about only getting capacity from the MNOs.

Responding to a question from Digital News Asia, he insists, “We are not getting our 5G capacity from the MNOs, but directly with DNB. There is a provision for Non-Discriminatory clause in the licence issued by MCMC. Where all licenced MNOs and MVNOs are given fair and equitable treatment in getting wholesale Reference Access Order (RAO) for 5G Access.”

DNB will have to manage this, while dealing with a continued sticking point with the telcos over the concern that it will eventually end up competing with them in providing 5G retail services. DNB has strongly denied this, emphasising that it is complementing their efforts.


A regional technology showcase 

David Hägerbro, Head of Ericsson Malaysia, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh reaffirmed his company’s commitment to delivering a world-class 5G network to DNB.  Ericsson was appointed DNB’s 5G Network Equipment Provider (NEP) in July 2021, after an exhaustive selection process. 

“The network is complemented by end-to-end solutions that are able to manage the unique requirements of a single wholesale network, and this has been proven by the ability to integrate six MNOs onto the DNB Multi Operator Core Network – a  global first, and a major technological milestone for Malaysia,” Hägerbro said. 

Adding to that was Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson’s Head of Market Area for South East Asia, Oceania and India: “We are bringing our global deployment experience of  powering more than 100 live 5G networks across 46 countries, to provide an  intelligent, robust, energy-efficient network that meets Malaysia’s unique  requirements.

“We will ensure that the DNB network not only becomes a showcase of 5G experience in the region, but also serves as a shining example of what technology innovation can offer.”


Unifi Mobile and YES customers get a loud voice in ongoing debate about 5G

For a government that is sensitive to the voice of netizens, the rolling out of 5G by TM and YTL Communications will now give their customers a loud voice in the robust ongoing debate about how 5G is being rolled out in Malaysia. Speaking of which, Bangladesh just rolled out its first 5G commercial services, placing further pressure on DNB and the Malaysian government to ensure a flawless and on-schedule 5G rollout.

TM and YTL Communications are taking advantage of DNB’s offer of free wholesale 5G services to all MNOs that are integrated into the DNB network. Combined the two operators have almost 4.5 million mobile and fixed broadband subscribers, 1.3 million mobile users from YES and 3.2 million fixed and mobile users from TM, with an average monthly data usage of between 40GB to 50GB per subscriber.

Users with 5G-compatible devices will be able to enjoy a minimum speed of 100 Mbps even at the weakest point of 5G coverage.  Not only will users enjoy speeds that range from 2.5x to 6x faster than what they are experiencing at present under 4G, DNB has promised to deliver 5G wholesale services to the MNOs at a significantly lower cost than their cost to deliver 4G capacity.

While coverage is limited for now, a promised rapid roll out by DNB will see 40% of Malaysians in populated areas having access to 5G by end 2022 with 80% coverage by 2024 and with the likelihood of 90% coverage eventually, though the government has not yet tasked DNB with this target.

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