U Mobile gets aggressive in expanding 4G LTE coverage
By Goh Thean Eu May 28, 2015
- To grow LTE sites from 100 at end-2014 to 1,000 by end-2015
- Signs nine-year backhaul services pact with telco giant TM
MALAYSIA'S fourth largest mobile operator U Mobile Sdn Bhd is going to be aggressive with its Fourth Generation/ Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) network rollout this year as it aims to close the gap with the top three operators.
It plans to have 1,000 4G LTE sites by the end of 2015 – a significant step, considering that it had fewer than 100 sites at the end of 2014.
“By the end of this year, we are hoping to grow our 4G network to cover at least 80% of the population in the Klang Valley and at least 70% of the population in Johor Baru,” chief technology officer Too Tian Jen told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur on May 27.
In fact, he said that if all goes according to plan, U Mobile might even complete its rollout of 1,000 4G LTE sites by October this year.
The 4G LTE coverage expansion is part of the RM1.5-billion (US$414-million) capital expenditure (capex) commitment the company announced last year.
The capex, which is being spent from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the end of 2015, will also cover the establishment of another 1,000 third generation (3G) sites by year-end, for a total of 5,000 of such sites.
In chasing the top three mobile operators – Maxis Bhd, Celcom Axiata Bhd and Digi.Com Bhd – U Mobile hopes that delivering a good data experience will win it more customers, said chief executive officer Wong Heang Tuck.
“Today, our 4G customer base is still rather small. But we are confident that this space will grow strongly this year,” he said.
Backhaul services pact with TM
As part of its efforts to deliver a good 4G LTE experience to its customers, U Mobile operator signed a pact with fixed-line operator Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM).
The nine-year deal will see U Mobile riding on TM’s fibre mobile backhaul connectivity to cover four main sites in Peninsular Malaysia, namely the central, southern, northern and eastern regions.
The pact does not include backhaul connectivity for East Malaysia.
In simple terms, the partnership would mean that U Mobile’s 4G LTE sites (new and existing) will be ‘fiberised’ or connected to TM’s backhaul infrastructure.
According to U Mobile’s Too, by leveraging on TM’s nationwide fibre coverage and resilient network platform, the mobile operator will gain quick access to fibre infrastructure to support its future network capacity demands.
It will also help it deliver affordable and high-quality Internet connectivity to more Malaysians, he added.
“As a data centric telco, we have introduced many market-defining products that are aligned with mobile Internet trends … in the past few years,” Too claimed.
“We hold customer satisfaction close to our heart, and that needs to be supported by a robust network infrastructure.
“We will continue to invest in our network to ensure our customers enjoy the best user experience in the market,” he added.
Industry infra-sharing moves
Under the deal, TM will be providing fibre mobile backhaul connectivity via its TM Next-Gen Backhaul services (NGBH) to offer up to 1Gbps per site.
TM’s NGBH is a fiberised point-to-point backhaul connectivity network that is specifically optimised to support 4G LTE rollout by providing high bandwidth capacity and reliable low latency.
Earlier this year, TM also signed an NGBH services deal with Celcom.
Mohamad Rozaimy Abd Rahman, executive vice president of TM’s global and wholesale business, said that such collaborations would help avoid the unnecessary duplication of network infrastructure.
“It is a strategic move by mobile operators to be more operationally efficient.
“We also see this partnership as a positive move towards delivering an enhanced service experience to Malaysians nationwide when they access high-bandwidth digital content, high-definition video streaming, or run real-time applications via their mobile services,” said Mohamad Rozaimy.
U Mobile’s Too said his company had looked at various vendors before deciding to tie up with TM.
“The actual RFP (Request For Proposals) process itself was … at least three to four months; there were many rounds of verification, negotiation, and so on.
“In the end, TM met our requirements, both technically and commercially,” he added.
The pact also complements U Mobile’s partnership with communications infrastructure services company edotco which began last year. The 10-year partnership will see edotco leasing tower site space whilst providing power and site maintenance.
“All these partnerships go well with our ‘light capex, lean opex’ (operation expenditure) model,” said Wong.
TM group chief financial officer Bazlan Osman did not reveal how much the NGBH services deal is worth, but said it would help TM’s wholesale business, moving forward.
U Mobile on the verge of operational profitability
Celcom and TM in phase 2 of infrastructure sharing agreement
U Mobile in deal with edotco to accelerate network rollout
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