5 years after launch, YES finally ready to compete on even footing
By Karamjit Singh June 28, 2016
- Network of 4,300 base stations covering 85% populated areas
- CEO Wing believes all-IP network offers YTL cost, quality advantage
“EVERYTHING that we have done in the almost seven years I have been here as the chief executive officer of YTL Communications Sdn Bhd, has been geared towards this Thursday’s launch, when we can finally compete on an even footing against the existing players as a full-fledged telco,” says Wing K. Lee
Speaking in a recent conversation with Digital News Asia (DNA), Wing (pic above) is referring to the June 30 official launch of YTL Comms’ LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network, in a grand event to be led by YTL Corp Bhd chairman Francis Yeoh. (YTL Comms is YTL Corp's telco arm).
That even footing Wing is referring to is the ability to finally offer, besides data services, voice calls over its LTE network via Voice-over- LTE (VoLTE).
As an all-IP (Internet Protocol) network, LTE is optimised for data, not voice. As a result, VoLTE services are delivered through data on a 4G (Fourth Generation) smartphone with the calls charged on a per minute basis.
[Edited for accuracy.]
And while VoLTE offers superior voice calls over current 2G- and 3G-based (Second and Third Generation) voice calls, until the other operators offer VoLTE themselves and implement interoperability, YTL Comms customers, through its YES service, will only enjoy their superior calls with another YES subscriber.
But these current limitations do not take away from the fact that the YES network is an all-IP one, which Wing is confident can help his company deliver a data and voice service superior to that from the other telcos.
“We did not publicise it and did not tell the world that we were building a network with LTE in mind,” says Wing, referring to the fact that over the last five-and-a-half years, YES has been offering its mobile broadband services over a WiMAX network that it quickly branded as 4G.
WiMAX was a technology that was touted as the next mobile network for the world, but failed to deliver on its promise mainly because its proponents, led by Intel, could not build an ecosystem of devices, networks, and access around it.
But for Wing and YES, that failure of the WiMAX ecosystem is negated by the efficiencies of an all-IP network, where “upgrading the technology is not that hard to do,” he says.
Since YES went live, YTL Comms has been building out its IP network to be LTE-ready, and increasing coverage to the point that it now has 4,300 base stations covering 85% of the population, with a total investment cost of between US$606 million and US$728 million (RM2.5 billion and RM3 billion), according to Wing.
“As we were building out the network and readying for Thursday’s launch, the only thing left was to make sure we could offer VoLTE, and that was what we have been working hard at over the last 18 months – and now we are ready,” he says.
He also claims that YTL Comms’ network can now support VoLTE “elegantly” on all the devices that it will launch on it.
In fact, the network went live last week in a soft launch, says Wing, when all Samsung J-series phones came bundled with a YES SIM card with 30GB of data.
With the YES network built by Samsung, the mobile operator wanted its close technology partner to enjoy the benefits of having the first smartphones in the market to enjoy the YES LTE service, he says.
“We want consumers to enjoy our service. If we were not confident of our network, we would not have offered the bundled service,” he adds.
That service will be offered at a very competitive rate, promises Wing.
With the ethos of the YTL Group, a Malaysian conglomerate which specialises in infrastructure, being that it should strive to offer ‘First World services at Third World prices,’ he says that the translation of this ethos at YTL Comms comes by using IP technology to deliver a world-class service, while reaping the economic benefits through a lean model which makes money on scale.
“Our competitors have legacy 2G and 3G networks to support, besides their 4G networks,” he says.
“This means their opex and capex (operating and capital expenditure) costs are high. But because we designed our IP network correctly, our capex is lower and our opex even more so, with only around 1,000 permanent staff.
“We can thus pass the economic benefits here to our customers,” says Wing, hinting at very attractive pricing plans for the launch.
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