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Malaysia commits RM15 billion for 5G tech implementation

A total of RM15 billion (US$ 3.7 billion)  will be invested over 10 years for the implementation of 5G technology throughout the country. The multi-billion investment is among four important types of digital infrastructure initiatives outlined by the government under the MyDigital — the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint – to accelerate innovation and create an effective digital ecosystem in the country.

At the virtual launching ceremony of the MyDigital today, the Prime Minister said such efforts would be carried out by a special purpose vehicle under the government and is expected to create some 105,000 employment opportunities. He said all licenced telecommunication companies will have equal access to these infrastructures, in marketing their 5G services to their respective customers.

The infrastructure’s cost-sharing enables telecommunication companies to generate higher returns and, in turn, provide better and cheaper 5G services to consumers. This is expected to boost the use of 5G, thus enhance economic capability in triggering more product and service innovations. By the end of this year (2021), 5G technology will be enjoyed by the rakyat in stages. With this, Malaysia will emerge as one of the first countries in this region to build a 5G ecosystem using internet and cloud services in real-time to enable instant sharing of information,” the Prime Minister stated in his speech at the virtual launching ceremony.

It was also noted that 5G technology will serve as a game-changer as more smart services with direct impact will be made available for the well-being of the people. 5G technology not only promises better and faster internet access, but more importantly, it also enables various important applications to be in the hands of end-users, including health monitoring applications for chronic patients, smart emergency assistance, and special applications for senior citizens who are living alone, he said.

According to another article, Malaysia is speeding up 5G deployments in the country through a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) that will receive 5G spectra, as well as build, operate and lease 5G infrastructure to new and existing telecoms by the end of 2021.

Speaking to the media to elaborate on the government’s 5G plans, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Chairman, said the SPV will be fully owned by Malaysia’s ministry of finance (MOF). The yet-to-be-named SPV is expected to invest a total of RMB15 billion over the next decade and will be given the appropriate spectrum to own, implement and manage 5G infrastructure. 5G services will be commercially available by the fourth quarter this year.

The frequency bands chosen for 5G in Malaysia are 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 28GHz. Spectrum bands already allocated to existing operators cannot be repurposed for 5G usage to ensure continued focus on 4G development. The head of Malaysia’s industry regulator said urban and industrial areas would likely have commercially available 5G coverage by the fourth quarter, in addition to some rural centres to bridge the digital divide.

According to the MCMC Chairman, the Covid-19 pandemic had galvanised the government to consider the importance of connectivity, especially in suburban and rural areas where even 4G coverage and quality is marginal at best.

He said internet traffic in Malaysia has not only increased by up to 70% but has shifted to residential areas by the same percentage. Speeds have reduced by up to 40% and complaints on poor indoor coverage have increased by up to 70%.

The MCMC Chairman said another factor exacerbating these challenges is the high investment needed for 5G network roll-outs, which could cost between 25% and 75% more than what was needed for 4G, citing an unnamed study.

“Covid-19 has been a stress test for Malaysia’s digital infrastructure,” he said. “A new approach is now needed to address the demand for a better digital economy, and that is why we need a new national approach to managing Malaysia’s 5G roll-out.”

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