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Johari Ghani says govt should stay out of 5G networking business

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — In an interview with Free Malaysia Today (FMT), former Minister of Finance II Datuk Seri Johari bin Abdul Ghani said the government should be focusing on administering the country than getting involved in the business. He said Malaysia’s 5G deployment should have involved the telcos instead of setting up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) such as Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).

He gave an example that in Thailand, the Thai government didn’t set up a 5G entity when it decided to roll out 5G and their rollout was very fast and smooth. He told FMT, “We (Malaysia) set up a company to deal with the telcos (but) the telcos do not have confidence in the government entity.”

He added that’s why Malaysia’s 5G deployment was slow with just 36-38 per cent coverage. If Malaysia gave the 5G rollout to the private sector, they would know how to address it and the government would just need to control the mechanism to ensure that it will benefit the government and the people. He stressed that should be the role of the government instead of going into the business.

Jo Ghani said the government’s role is to focus on running the government and to collect the tax. When the government starts doing business, that’s where there will be a lot of problems will arise. He added that the government’s 5G plan had faced delays as telcos were hesitant to purchase capacity in the initial stages due to pricing and transparency concerns.

DNB is the sole entity that’s given the mandate to rollout 5G in Malaysia and was awarded the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz spectrum. As a result, all telcos are not allowed to deploy their own 5G network and would have to lease 5G access from the single wholesale network.

After the change of government following the recent general elections, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has called for a review of Malaysia’s current 5G deployment via DNB. Anwar alleged that the current 5G deployment was not done in a transparent manner and there was no tender. Current Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has expressed concerns about the 5G deployment delay and costs. At the moment, the government aims to complete the review of DNB by end of March 2023.

DNB recently claimed that it has exceeded its targets by achieving close to 50 per cent population coverage by the end of 2022. After rebuke by Fahmi over coverage claims, DNB confirmed that 5G was only accessible in 38 per cent of populated areas while other sites are still waiting to be “onboarded” by the telcos. A telco insider has told us that DNB’s claim about telcos can choose when and where 5G will be available is not true as they have no visibility of when the sites are ready and only after onboarding they will be aware of the sites’ operational status.

They have been calls to liberalise the deployment of 5G in Malaysia to speed up deployment. Former MCMC chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak said the government can reinstate the technology neutrality of existing spectrum which was revoked by the previous administration in July 2021. With technology neutrality, telcos are able to refarm their existing spectrum for 5G which will enable healthy competition similar to Japan. Utilising Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), telcos can use their existing spectrum for both 4G and 5G services. Since DNB’s 5G spectrum is awarded based on Apparatus Assignment (AA) instead of Spectrum Assignment (SA), he said the government has some flexibility to rethink its 5G deployment strategy.

At the moment, Maxis is the only telco not offering 5G services. According to their statement, it will delay its decision to sign up with DNB until the government completes the review on the current 5G single wholesale network model.

Source : THE STAR

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