Malaysia pushes 5G back to 2022

Malaysia has pushed the introduction of 5G until at least 2022, the new digital infrastructure plan has confirmed.

The Jendela plan, unveiled by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin last week, prioritizes upgrading broadband and 4G and shutting 3G by the end of 2021.

The second phase, starting around 2022, will be the “transition to 5G,” the regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), said.

Telco leaders expressed support for the deferred 5G rollout. Axiata Group CEO Jamaludin Ibrahim said 5G had been “pretty much oversold,” Edge Markets reported. Celcom Axiata CEO Mohamad Idham Nawawi said due to what he described as a lack of devices and applications, the second half of 2021 would be “the right time to start commercializing” 5G.

Malaysia’s path to 5G has been in disarray since early June, when Communications Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah suddenly announced the issue of 700MHz spectrum to five operators.

The surprised decision overturned the plans developed by MCMC and the industry to allocate spectrum via a tender in Q3. After an outcry, Saifuddin reversed it within 24 hours.

The new plan is not a state-funded rollout such as the NGN in neighboring Singapore or Australia’s NBN. It is a set of targets that require buy-in from the industry and local authorities.

The first phase, which gets underway immediately, aims to expand 4G coverage from 91.8% to 96.9% of the population, boost fixed broadband speeds from 25 Mbit/s to 35 Mbit/s and enable gigabit fixed broadband access for up to 7.5 million premises.

It also envisages shutting down 3G networks to free up 900MHz and 2.1GHz spectrum to assist 4G expansion and help pave the way for 5G, MCMC said.

Malaysia’s six network operators said in a joint statement that phase two would involve deploying FWA and other technologies to close gaps in the digital divide to prime for the “eventual adoption of 5G.”

The operators – Maxis, Celcom, Digi, U Mobile, Telekom Malaysia and Time dotcom – endorsed Jendela and said they would work with the government to help create “a globally competitive digital society and economy.”

Research firm CGS-CIMB said Jendela was in line with its expectation that the government would focus on optimizing 4G and broadband.

It said the 3G closure would free 900MHz spectrum for 4G and also predicted that some 700MHz spectrum could be allocated to 4G.

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