U Mobile lags behind its rivals in rural 4G availability

Previously, Opensignal has released a report that looks into the connectivity gap between urban and rural areas in Malaysia. This time they have provided a more in-depth look which covers the top 5 telcos in Malaysia. With 5G expected to kick off next year, there’s still a huge disparity among telcos when it comes to 4G availability in less populated areas.

According to Opensignal, Celcom offers the highest 4G availability across urban to less populated rural areas. In cities with a population of over 300 people per sq. km, Celcom has 90.7% availability while in rural areas with a population of up to 50 people per sq. km, the blue telco still has a respectable 74.3% 4G availability.

4G availability by density

After Celcom, Maxis comes in 2nd place for 4G availability with Digi following closely behind. Unifi which is a relatively new 4G LTE provider comes in at 4th place while U Mobile has the lowest 4G availability across all categories except for areas with a population density between 50-100 people per sq. km.

It’s worth pointing out that the 4G availability gap is very significant in the least populated areas. If you look at Category 1 areas, U Mobile customers can only get 4G 40% of the time versus Celcom that offers close to 75% availability.

4G + 3G availability by density

With 4G and 3G combined, the disparity becomes less apparent with the top 4 telcos having over 90% availability across all areas. However, U Mobile still falls short in the rural districts with 86.4% availability.

What’s surprising is that Unifi Mobile has the highest availability in the highest populated areas with 98.4% versus 98.1% by Celcom. This is probably due to its expansive coverage that consists of TM’s own LTE network along with its access to Celcom’s footprint via domestic roaming. You can read the full report by Opensignal here.

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In the last Mobile Network Experience Report for Malaysia, Opensignal has noted the improvements made by our Malaysian telcos but it is clear that more effort is needed to improve mobile connectivity in smaller towns and districts. This is where the National Fibre and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) is needed to accelerate infrastructure improvements in underserved areas to close the digital gap.

Under NFCP 1 and NFCP 2, selected licensees will be deploying 3G and 4G infrastructure across 653 areas in 10 states with the aim of increasing the average speed to 30Mbps. The successful licensees under NFCP 1 will be revealed in early January 2020 while those interested to participate under NFCP 2 must submit their bids by 31st March 2020. These infrastructure upgrades will be funded via the USP fund which is heavily contributed by licensed telcos in Malaysia.

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Alexander Wong