Mobile networks in Malaysia will suffer by 2020. Here’s what needs to be done

Posted:  August 11, 2017   By:    27 comments   

What's spectrum and why do we need more?

For those who are not familiar, spectrum is basically space in the air that’s used for communication. Everything we use wirelessly including TV, radio, mobile and even WiFi is using a chunk of spectrum. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is free or unlimited. In fact, it is a finite resource and telcos have to pay a lot of money to secure a chunk of it. The regulatory body that manages our spectrum allocation in Malaysia is MCMC.

Today, Malaysian telcos are allocated with a total of 650MHz of spectrum for our current 2G/3G/4G bands. According to UTM’s whitepaper, this isn’t enough and Malaysia will need additional 307MHz of spectrum to fulfil the forecasted mobile broadband traffic by 2020. In a nut shell, it’s like not having enough lanes on the highway to support the millions of cars on the road.

Malaysia isn’t alone in this spectrum shortage. Thailand has a gap of 410MHz while Singapore needs 450MHz more by 2020. In Indonesia, the gap is even wider at 625MHz.

How much spectrum is our telcos using right now?

Malaysia Spectrum Allocation 2017

Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman, the whitepaper’s lead researcher, shared that a Telco needs at least 100MHz of spectrum in order to have a reliable 4G LTE-Advanced experience with 100Mbps speeds. When we refer to the spectrum allocation table above, none of our telcos has 100MHz dedicated for 4G LTE. It is worth pointing out that Maxis is sharing extra 2x10MHz allocation from Redtone while Celcom is also sharing a similar 2x10MHz from ALTEL.

130MHz Spectrum Identified

As an immediate solution, UTM’s whitepaper has identified 130MHz of possible spectrum that could be freed up very soon. One of it is 700MHz which is currently used for analogue TV transmissions. Compared to digital TV, analogue TV transmission is very inefficient. We are told that the amount of spectrum used for a single analogue TV channel is the same as 10 channels in digital format.

Once analogue TV transmission ends on June 2018, 90MHz from the 700MHz band can be repurposed for 4G LTE. Compared to other existing LTE bands in Malaysia, 700MHz is great for wider coverage as it offers twice the coverage radius than 1800MHz which is equivalent to 12 times in coverage area. In addition, lower frequency signals also allow better building and wall penetration compared to higher LTE bands.

Another identified spectrum is the 1400MHz (L-Band) which would provide more capacity than 700MHz. It is currently being used in Japan for mobile communications while others are using it for fixed links and radar, special media events and aeronautical telemetry services. In Malaysia, it is currently allocated for DMS and this extra 40MHz can be released by 2020.

After acquiring a 90MHz block on 700MHz and 40MHz on 1400MHz, there’s still a gap of 177MHz spectrum remaining.

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27 Comments for Mobile networks in Malaysia will suffer by 2020. Here’s what needs to be done


Wow.. this is a very good reading material!

Keep it up Soyacincau!


Nice work !

Write this sort of article more in future!

UTM Sanjungan Bangsa.


Very good article compared to your Uber crap


Good article.

Keep it up guys !


Spectrum is indeed FREE and UNLIMITED as it's basically a fancy name for radio waves that's used for transmission. It's just pure physics and NOT rocket science.

What is NOT free and unlimited are the equipment to operate, transmit and receive. And government saw a golden oppportunity to make money by auction the "RIGHTS" to operate, transmit and receive a certain portion of the radio waves.

How large is the spectrum ? From 1 Hertz all the way to TeraHertz and beyond. To say that human is running out of spectrum is just plain fear mongering based on ignorance.

Further details at


    Dear PLOH, I suggest you to read more regarding radio spectrum. Not EVERY radio waves are usable and suitable for wireless communication. To say that spectrum is unlimited is just plain ignorance and it shows how uneducated you are regarding these subject.


    You are so exactly right. This is plain excuse to cover up their incompetence. Just as FAKE as the global warming concept

    What other fake stuff these people will come out next? Malaysia running out of oxygen? Shake head.

      Donald dumb

      Donald dumb is a waste of time. He don’t know what he is doing and thus making the would disorder!


      Thanks pmurT

      And Faris, chill bro .. nothing personal


    It's regulated, that's why it's not free. It's illegal to transmit without license.

    Do you know frequency band? (ELF, SLF, ULF, VLF, LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF, SHF, EHF,THF)


      Diu… who the eff need to know….
      Consumers just need quality services, operator's responsibilities to ensure qualities.


      M.K., precisely that's the point. Because of government regulation, things like radio waves are NO LONGER "FREE & UNLIMITED".


        If it’s not regulated, everyone will transmit their own. Then, a lot of interference will happen. Users will suffer with bad quality service


    Who exactly is going to develop, tune and make the silicon, radio+power amplifier, antenna, firmware, protocol, etc that can support non standard frequencies?

    Furthermore, these frequencies are agreed upon on a regional scale for interoperability. You wanna trade with a superpower country, you kowtow to the bigger country and adopt their regulations and maybe modify abit to suit local reg. Malaysia is just a follower.
    The government did not see this as golden opportunity. This is how it works. Play nice, or end up like isolationist North Korea.


    I'd suggest you go back to school and learn why not all spectrum is usable the way you think it is.
    Or rather, go back to kindergarten to learn how to understand your own posted link.
    Frequency simply implies a measurement. It does not implies a radio's electro-magnetic induced waveform which many electronics uses to communicate.

    I can bounce a tennis ball back and fourth in a room 1 time per second, thus the frequency is 1Hz. Does that mean it can be used as a "spectrum" for communication? You should know there are limitations for everything. The ball will not be able to bounce at 100Mhz, the same for radio waves. They won't radiate at a frequency too slow or too fast of their physical properties.

    That's why telecommunications engineering is one of the hardest engineering to learn and that's why it takes a student at least 4 years to learn that subject properly. And that's also why they need 1 entire subject for antenna, 1 entire subject for propagation and 1 entire subject for RF circuit design.

    Also, please think. If Spectrum is usable in an unlimited capacity, why do people need to switch to Fibre Optic cables instead of continuing to use copper such as Cat5? You may argue that because of range.

    Yes, and that's only 1 of the reason. Now think again, why do higher frequency light waves can achieve longer range while electrical signal can't?

    Yes, because it's of a different physical property! One uses electron to pass the signal while another uses photons.

    You don't just simply take one article and make a conclusion without thinking it through. Just like how you couldn't catch pmurT's sarcasm at you…


      Hahahahaha LOL POOH, there's no need to get personal and insulting even if you don't agree with anyone.

      I'm not sure if pmurT post means other things than what was a clear statement. Perhaps you have the ability to read in between the lines.

      Don't need a PHd to talk about "SPECTRUM" and electromagnetic radiation, wave length and frequency as this is just a website on telephones.

      Put it in another way, POOH

      Land was "FREE and UNLIMITED" before making monkeys became human and human civilization boomed. Now everywhere, people are paying high prices for houses and for other uses of land.

      Government suddenly become the "OWNER" of every square inch of land and is the final arbiter of the land prices.

      So land became a scare commodity and land is NO FREE and UNLIMITED anymore.

      Oh yes, you do need to spend 4 years for your DEGREE before you can understand the concept of LAND LAW as you do when you want to become a telecommunication engineer.

      And you need further experience to be a qualified land conveyance before you can even deal with land.

      I guessed that you don't need to be registered to be a telecommunication engineer 🙂

      PS – I was a kindergarten tutor, and am willing to teach you on some basic knowledge and manners too.

    exasperated net user

    Dear PLOH, I wonder if you understand about what is frequency, and why its usability, allocation, sharing, and interoperability needs to be regulated in the first place.


Penang coverage is terrible because state government and people are not cooperating. At the end, the Telco find it difficult to add new cells and resulting customer keep complaining lousy network.


    Penang Government needs the support of the people, so they will do as much as they can to help the people. On the other hand, Penang people are king of complains.

    Do this will cause people loosing their homes, do that will cause fishes to die, and this will cause health issue, that will cause waste of money, this will make life hard…

    Fortunately, the government do not always follow the people's demands blindly and tend to sometimes help educate the people slowly to help change their habits.


    Also, I'd like to point out that the Penang Government did it to follow regulations. If the telco was following regulations, then I doubt that the state will tear down the towers.

    The state government DID ask the federal government to suggest a spot, which the federal just kept quiet since they know that the tower really did violate regulations.


Not all telcos are using their spectrum properly. Some got it and not doing anything. Gahmen should take back and give it to telcos with more subscribers. Smaller telcos can consider merging. Malaysia population so small we don’t need 10 different spectrum owners.


    MCMC did impose fines on the companies which bought the spectrum and did not implement its usage after a period of time.


To ease the load on mobile data, fiber connection should be liberalized and be made much cheaper ASAP. Monopoly is killing it. Mobile data should only be used while on the move and not at home.


    not possible. because some house area are yet to have proper Streamyx/UniFi intrastructure. hence, they have to resort to wireless broadband as their main broadband at home.

    Like me last time. I have to rely on P1 Wimax for 2 years and celcom & digi for almost 2 years after Unifi came to my house area.

Anything Possible

Monopoly will caused consumer to suffer. Someone pay RM148 per month for 4 Mbps on copper wire from that service provider while someone else pay less than RM148 for 50 Mbps on fiber from another service provider.


    That is a duopoly. Not monopoly. You have a choice.

      Anything Possible

      Here is something I'm not sure. I was told by someone that green lights needed from that service provider in order to provide 50 Mbps on fiber for less than RM148 in certain area. Well, if you are in those area, you have no choice.