Malaysian cellcos call for second 5G wholesale operator as DNB switches on its first sites

15 Dec 2021

Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), Malaysia’s sole 5G wholesale service operator, has switched on its first live 5G sites, local press outlet Lowyat.net reports. The sites are located in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, and it is understood that the operator has around 300 5G base stations in operation initially, although it is expected to increase that figure to 500 within the next few weeks.

In terms of access to the network for consumers, YTL Communications – which offers services under the Yes banner – is reportedly the first of the country’s telcos to have launched a commercial offering over the DNB network. YTL is marketing SIM-only 5G plans on both a pre-paid and post-paid basis, with the latter costing MYR49 (USD11.6) per month and offering 100GB of 4G data in addition to unlimited 5G data until 31 March 2022. In addition, it is also offering a range of handset and 5G SIM bundles. Meanwhile, Telekom Malaysia is expected to become the next to introduce 5G; the operator confirmed earlier this month that it had struck a deal to trial 5G connectivity with DNB, and it has been suggested that the operator’s ‘unifi Mobile’ branded post-paid customers will be able to access the 5G network for the trial’s duration. Notably, however, neither YTL nor Telekom Malaysia have confirmed yet whether they have signed a long-term agreement on the usage of DNB’s 5G wholesale infrastructure.

In separate but related news, Reuters reports that several Malaysian mobile network operators (MNOs) have, in fact, recommended that the authorities allow for the setup of a second 5G wholesale network in the country, with the news outlet citing three sources and documents it had seen. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, earlier this month the government said it would look to make a final decision in January 2022 as to whether to allow multiple 5G network access providers, following reports of concerns from local cellcos over matters of pricing and transparency.

According to Reuters, representatives from all six MNOs – Celcom Axiata, Digi Communications, Maxis, U Mobile, Telekom Malaysia and YTL – met with government officials on 13 December to propose solutions to the deadlock. It is claimed that Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile recommended that the state allow the construction of two wholesale 5G networks, with each to be built and operated by a consortium of carriers. For its part, YTL was said to have objected to such plans, expressing support for a single 5G network, while Telekom Malaysia indicated it would back any decision made by the government. DNB said, though, that it was not privy to the discussions held, with a response regarding the matter from the company’s CEO Ralph Marshall saying only: ‘We will respect the process adopted by the government and will make our representations at the appropriate forum.’