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5G: Malaysia government to decide on 700MHz spectrum allocation soon

Malaysia is expected to make a decision on the allocation of 5G spectrum soon. Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin said the government is still discussing whether to allocate the 700MHz spectrum to a consortium or directly to individual licensees.

He said that the 700MHz frequency band will be prioritised to telcos with existing subscribers. He added that the decision will be announced as soon as possible because the spectrum band is important to maximise usage nationwide. The latest updates were shared by Zahidi during his visit to the 5G Demonstration Projects in Langkawi.

5G Malaysia

As announced earlier this year, Malaysia’s 5G bands, 700MHz and 3.5GHz, were supposed to be allocated to a consortium. At that time, the MCMC explained that the single-entity approach would help lower capital expenditure (CAPEX) by minimising cost and to prevent duplication of infrastructure. This would help to speed up 5G roll out in an effective manner while telcos continue to maintain and expand its 4G network.

After the change of administration, the new Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah had allocated the 700MHz spectrum to Altel, Celcom, Digi, Maxis and TM through ministerial orders without a tender. Eventually, the Minister had retracted the order and promised to relook into the allocation process.

Without a clear roadmap, it appears that Malaysia will miss its Q3 2020 target to roll out 5G. Singapore has already awarded its 5G spectrum to 3 entities namely Singtel, a joint-consortium that consists of StarHub and M1, and TPG. The island republic aims to cover 50% of the island with 5G by end of 2022 with full coverage targeted by end of 2025.

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Alexander Wong