Digi aiming for 45% population coverage for LTE by year-end

  • Klang Valley coverage jumps from 14% to 79% in last 12 months
  • Allocates US$250mil capex for 2015 to fast-track LTE rollout
Digi aiming for 45% population coverage for LTE by year-end

MALAYSIAN mobile operator Digi.Com Bhd is aiming for its Fourth Generation/ Long-Term Evolution (4G LTE) network to cover at least 45% of the population by year-end.
 
The country’s largest mobile operator in terms of prepaid subscriber and prepaid revenue market share, currently has a nationwide population coverage of 33% for its LTE services.
 
In the Klang Valley alone, its LTE population coverage is at 79%. Meanwhile, its third generation (3G) network covers more than 86% of the population.
 
Digi aiming for 45% population coverage for LTE by year-endThe network expansion move is part of Digi’s ambition to be the “best mobile Internet provider” for the mass market over the next three years, which has it aiming for the top spot in metrics such as coverage and network quality, among others.
 
While the goal to achieve at least 45% coverage (from the current 33% population coverage) may seem conservative, chief sales officer Loh Keh Jiat (pic) said that the company has been aggressive in rolling out its 4G LTE coverage over the past year.
 
“In the same period a year ago, our 4G LTE coverage in the Klang Valley was only 14%. Today, it is 79%,” he told a media conference in Petaling Jaya on May 21, after the company kicked off a 4G  LTE roadshow.
 
Loh would not reveal which areas Digi will be focusing its LTE expansion on for this year, but said that it will be “based on demand and by stages.”
 
Via both 1800MHz and 2600MHz
 
The expansion in coverage will be partly driven by overlaying Digi’s 1800MHz and 2600MHz spectra for LTE over the next few quarters.
 
Currently, the company is offering 4G LTE services via its 2600MHz band. It has yet to offer the service via its 1800MHz frequency, which is currently being used for its 2G services.
 
“We need to do some refarming before we overlay both spectra,” said Loh.
 
Neither Loh nor Praveen Rajan, head of the company’s postpaid business, were able to disclose when the company would start using its 1800MHz band for 4G LTE.
 
The ability to offer 4G LTE services via both 2600MHz and 1800MHz spectra is important, as this can help the company roll out its 4G LTE services more effectively in terms of both coverage and speed.
 
At present, its main rivals Celcom Axiata Bhd and Maxis Bhd are already offering their 4G LTE services via both bands.
 
Aggressive plans ahead
 
Digi aiming for 45% population coverage for LTE by year-endAccording to Digi chief executive officer Albern Murty (pic), the company has invested RM2.3 billion (US$640 million) in capital expenditure (capex) over the past three years to modernise and strengthen its network.
 
“This year, we are committed to investing RM900 million (US$250 million) in capex for our network, part of which is to fast-track our LTE rollout and extend the benefits of high-quality Internet connectivity for all,” he said at the launch of Digi’s 4G LTE roadshow.
 
As at the first quarter ended March 31, 2015, Digi managed to grow its data revenue (which comprises Internet revenue, text messages and value-added services) by 17.7% to RM672 million [RM1 = US$0.28].
 
Data revenue now contributes about 37% of Digi’s total revenue of RM1.79 billion, about four percentage points higher than the 33% contribution in the first quarter of last year.
 
“Today, the Internet segment is widely projected to be the fastest growing segment in the telco industry – the future is all about the Internet,” said Albern.
 
“Our focus is to continue to ensure everyone has access to quality Internet services nationwide, fuelled by significant improvements in our network performance and coverage, the proliferation of a wider range of affordable smartphones bundles, and innovative digital service offerings to fit different customer usage patterns,” he added.
 
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Opportunities and challenges that await Digi's new CEO
 
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