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TM Plans to Launch LTE Service February Next Year

UPDATE: TM partners with Green Packet, P1 & SK Telekom to expedite roll out of LTE services. More details here.

After much speculation, TM has finally revealed that it is indeed planning to launch 4G LTE services in a bid to grow and protect its data services business.

In an interview with The Star, TM’s group CEO, Tan Sri Zam Isa explained that the company will be exploring wireless technologies for the expansion its wireless broadband services in underserved areas.

However it is not clear if the country’s largest telephony and broadband provider will expand its business into the mobile space or if it will use LTE to provide broadband services to areas too expensive to serve with fibre or copper. It’s likely that TM is keeping its options open but expect the company to start with a nomadic service when it kicks off its LTE service.

Commercial service is expected to start in February 2014 and the company targets to have 100,000 users on its LTE network within 2014 and more than one million LTE subscribers by 2017.

TM is no stranger when it comes to wireless networks. Currently, it uses CDMA technology to provide broadband and telephony services in areas where it is not feasible to provide connectivity via copper or fibre but the number of subscribers who are on TM’s CDMA network is low compared to GSM mobile operators. On top of that, LTE is a whole new ballgame for TM and it will be coming into the field as the underdog with everything to prove.

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Assuming the February 2014 timeline is solid, 1 million subscribers within 3 years is an ambitious projection and a challenging one as well because TM will have to compete against strong incumbents like Maxis and Celcom.

It’s going to be tough but TM is familiar with massive challenges. It’s UniFi project is internationally recognised as one of the fastest and largest HSBB rollout in the world. From infrastructure to service, the project was completed in just 18 months.

2014 is going to be interesting for broadband in Malaysia. It’s going to be interesting to see if TM can repeat the success of UniFi. It’s not going to be easy. With UniFi, TM didn’t have competitors to worry about, the company’s foray into LTE will arguably be more challenging. TM has to build a wireless network from scratch and at the same time compete with established competitors in a very crowded market. Can TM do it? Share your thoughts.