MCMC announces spectrum reallocation

3 Feb 2016

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has outlined plans to reallocate frequencies in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands among four telecoms operators by August this year, in line with the government’s decision to optimise the use of spectrum resources through reallocation and bidding.

As per the plans, the two aforementioned spectrum bands will be assigned, for a fee, to Celcom Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Maxis and U Mobile for a period of 15 years, with the frequency assignments expected to be issued to the quartet by August 2016 for full implementation by 1 July 2017. Explaining the reasoning behind choosing these operators for spectrum reallocation, MCMC chairman Dato’ Sri Dr Halim Shafie said that this was because all four already have sufficient infrastructure to expand upon, adding: ‘The reallocation takes into account the development of the sector and the nation as a whole. Specifically, a high priority has been put on communications coverage, quality of service and affordability of services.’ While the spectrum fee is yet to be determined, the MCMC has confirmed that, similar to the previous practice for 3G frequencies, payments will be made in phases, a system which it has claimed will allow operators to roll out services without passing on the cost to consumers. Looking ahead, meanwhile, Dr Halim said that the regulator will also look to address ‘the optimal usage of other relevant spectrum bands such as the 700MHz, 2300MHz [and] 2600MHz bands … by the end of 2016.’

On the back of the regulator’s announcement both Digi and Maxis have separately confirmed their new spectrum allocations. The former revealed it had been allocated 2×5MHz in the 900MHz band and 2×20MHz of 1800MHz spectrum for a 15-year period, while Maxis has reportedly received a reduced spectrum allocation of 2×10MHz and 2×20MHz for the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands, respectively. Prior to the reallocation exercise, Maxis – along with both Digi and Celcom – had 50MHz in the 1800MHz band, while it had 32MHz in the 900MHz band, more than Digi’s 4MHz in the band, but less than the 34MHz allocated to Celcom. Notably, as per the current spectrum allocations, U Mobile had no frequencies in either of the two aforementioned bands.