DNB integrates five MNOs into its wholesale 5G network

11 Nov 2021

Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), Malaysia’s sole 5G wholesale service operator, has successfully integrated five mobile network operators (MNOs) into its 5G network, The Edge Markets reports. According to the local press outlet, during DNB’s 5G Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) event held yesterday (10 November) it demonstrated having incorporated Celcom Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Maxis, Telekom Malaysia, and U Mobile in its fifth-generation network. Integration of a sixth MNO is said to be slated ‘at a later date’, meanwhile.

DNB claims that the development represents the world’s first 5G RAN trial integration with more than two MNOs, with CEO Ralph Marshall noting that this had been made possible through the network’s MOCN functionality, which allows a network operator to provide access to a single RAN by a number of other operators. ‘Each operator operates its own core network, including one or more independent nodes. Each of these multiple core networks can communicate with each other as peers through the software,’ the executive explained. Additionally, Marshall said that later next year, DNB’s 5G network will be able to integrate up to twelve MNOs. Commenting on the integration demonstration, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said that DNB’s 5G network seamless integration with each MNO’s existing core platforms would eliminate costly duplication in infrastructure investments and drive lower prices for end users. ‘This will further enable the accelerated adoption of 5G services in Malaysia and narrow the digital divide,’ the minister said.

Meanwhile, DNB’s chief commercial officer Ahmad Taufek Omar claimed that the wholesale operator is charging MNOs for its 5G network only as a form of cost recovery, revealing that its charging model comprises three mechanisms: coverage capacity (commitment to minimum capacity to provide coverage across all commissioned units built); additional capacity (option to add capacity for specific areas); and buffer capacity (additional further capacity catered for peak seasons). Ahmad Taufek also sought to stress that the prices DNB offers to MNOs are ‘definitely not discriminatory’, with all MNOs offered the same price for its 5G network. He did, though, note: ‘However, bigger MNOs will have larger requirements and therefore prices will be affected. But once we give the bigger MNO that [modified] price, the other MNOs can also request for the same price. There is no such thing as a different price for each MNO.’

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in July 2021 DNB selected Ericsson for the end-to-end development of its 5G infrastructure, and the wholesale operator is now aiming to switch on its 5G network in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya in December 2021 as part of an initial launch phase. Looking ahead, DNB expects to achieve 40% coverage ‘in populated areas’ by the end of 2022, with its infrastructure to subsequently be extended to cover other urban and rural areas and industrial parks, with a target of approximately 80% population coverage by end of 2024.