The Malaysian Communications and Mutlimedia Commission (MCMC) has confirmed that it has allocated spectrum in the 2600MHz band suitable for Long Term Evolution (LTE) services to eight companies. Those operators that have been handed access to the spectrum are: Celcom Axiata, DiGi Telecommunications, Maxis Broadband, Packet One Networks (P1), newcomer Puncak Semangat, REDtone Marketing, U Mobile and YTL Communications.
The development comes more than two years after the watchdog first unveiled plans to award frequencies in the band. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, the MCMC first announced its intention to award 2600MHz spectrum in October 2010, before in early December 2011 it was claimed that the regulator had issued award letters to all of the aforementioned operators, giving them until the middle of that month to submit their respective business plans for the spectrum’s use. Alongside this submission, all eight companies were required to raise an irrecoverable bank guarantee of MYR2.5 million (USD792,000) for each 5MHz of spectrum they were to be allocated.
In announcing the issuing of spectrum, the MCMC confirmed that existing service providers will be allowed to use the 2600MHz allocation ‘to expand and enhance the capacity of their mobile broadband networks to meet increasing consumer demands’, while it claimed that the introduction of a new operator in the form of Puncak Semangat would ‘bring fresh ideas and innovation to the market’. Further, the regulator has said it expects operators to enter into network sharing agreements in order to utilise larger bandwidth and lower the cost of rollouts, while it also said that 4G wholesale mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) partnerships would likely be offered to those service providers that did not gain any new spectrum.
Commenting on the development, MCMC Chairman Dato’ Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi noted: ‘[The] MCMC is always committed to finding the right balance between the needs of consumers, investors and other stakeholders of the industry. We believe that the balance struck between ensuring healthy competition in the market and promoting industry development will help spur continued growth for existing service providers and provide opportunity for new market entrants.’
In separate but related news, hot on the heels of the spectrum allocation the country’s second-placed cellco by subscribers, Celcom Axiata, has said it will invest around MYR300 million (USD98.5 million) over the next three years to support its 4G network. Local news portal The Star Online also cited Celcom CEO Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly as noting that his company will spend less than MYR1 billion in the year ending 31 December 2013 for network modernisation and IT transformation as it expanded its focus on new digital services. The cellco’s entire infrastructure has already been upgraded to offer LTE, with CommsUpdate noting in June 2012 that it had moved to a single radio access network (RAN), capable of offering 2G, 3G and 4G services. By that date Celcom had spent approximately MYR800 million on upgrading its network to single RAN status.