The 5G journey in Malaysia: Progress and future prospects

The 5G journey for Malaysia: Progress and future prospects

The 5G journey in Malaysia: Progress and future prospects As a tech journalist, Zul focuses on topics including cloud computing, cybersecurity, and disruptive technology in the enterprise industry. He has expertise in moderating webinars and presenting content on video, in addition to having a background in networking technology.


Significant progress has been made on the ground in Malaysia, where populated areas reported coverage of 81.7%—an impressive figure considering that Korea and Singapore had barely reached those levels by September and October.

Malaysia achieved 80 per cent coverage in populated areas (CoPA) by late 2023, building on historic progress.

Deputy communications minister Teo Nie Ching recently informed the Dewan Rakyat that a total of 7,114 sites have been deployed across Malaysia. Although the emphasis has been on urban areas with high economic activity, efforts to expand coverage to rural locations are being developed and will roll out incrementally.

Coverage data from states and territories tell a story of swift momentum. Among the states, Kuala Lumpur leads with 97.7% coverage, followed by Putrajaya at 97.3%, and Selangor at 96.1%. For other states, coverage varies from 62% in Sarawak to the highest of 94.4% in Labuan.

This progress stems from the adoption of the single wholesale network (SWN) model by Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB). A significant step in this process was the finalisation of share subscription agreements (SSAs) by five mobile network operators (MNOs), which occurred in December 2023.

This shift allows for a concentrated focus on areas requiring attention as Malaysia enters the next phase of 5G deployment. Indoor coverage remains a priority, with ongoing efforts to determine the most effective strategies, particularly in key public areas and for enterprise solutions.

Additionally, there is an increasing emphasis on the potential to extend 5G to underserved regions, including considerations of how universal service provision (USP) funds might be leveraged and which new deployment models could help close the gaps in rural access.

Private 5G networks are also starting to be developed for sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare, a trend exemplified by Petronas’ private network at its Melaka regasification terminal.

There’s ongoing deliberation about allowing more equipment vendors to participate in the 5G ecosystem, particularly for the remaining 20% of CoPA, indoor coverage, and enterprise solutions.

Discussions continue regarding DNB’s future operating and ownership structure, including the possibility of the government maintaining a golden share to ensure alignment among telcos and proper debt management. Speculation about the deployment of a second wholesale network persists, which could complement DNB’s efforts if implemented thoughtfully.

The government is expected to make important announcements regarding the nation’s 5G policy in the coming months. These decisions will shape the future of Malaysia’s 5G landscape, addressing crucial aspects such as the balance between the existing SWN model and potential new networks, strategies for accelerating indoor and rural coverage, ensuring fair competition and innovation in the telecom sector, and maintaining high technical standards and affordable pricing for consumers.

As Malaysia advances its 5G ambitions, the focus remains on achieving comprehensive coverage, fostering innovation, and ensuring that the benefits of this technology reach all segments of society. The success of these efforts will play a crucial role in positioning Malaysia as a leader in digital connectivity in the region.

For those experiencing coverage issues, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has provided channels for complaints, including a WhatsApp hotline and the Commission’s website. Members of Parliament can also lodge complaints at the MCMC Complaint Counter in the Parliament building.

The path forward for Malaysia’s 5G deployment hinges on critical policy decisions. These include determining whether to maintain a government golden share in DNB, conducting open tenders for remaining coverage areas and indoor solutions, and exploring financing models for rural deployment. The potential for a second wholesale network adds another layer of complexity to these considerations.

As the nation awaits policy clarity, the telecom industry and consumers alike are poised for the next chapter in Malaysia’s digital transformation, with the promise of enhanced connectivity and innovative services on the horizon.

See also: 5G and security: The dual telecoms challenges facing the new UK government

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