Maxis close to a 5G deal with DNB despite coverage concerns
- Maxis to sign up if access agreement’s resolved
In Malaysia, Maxis is the only major mobile network operator that has yet to tap into the 5G network operated by the government-owned entity Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB). Fortunately the telecommunication giant has finally assured its commitment to sign the 5G access agreement. This would eventually allow it to provide fifth-generation network services to its customers.
Low coverage remains an issue for Maxis, and is why the telco provider has delayed its participation in the country’s 5G network. “It is not a matter of Maxis not signing the agreement, we will sign the access agreement, but the network coverage is still an issue, and this is something that I want to highlight,” Maxis CEO Goh Siew Eng said during a panel discussion at Invest Malaysia Series 2 conference on June 7.
Goh didn’t disclose when the company would sign the agreement with DNB. “We will sign the access agreement, but coverage is still an issue; we need to work together,” he added. The state-owned DNB currently has a monopoly as Malaysia’s 5G network operator.
Once coverage of the existing network reaches 80% of the country’s populated areas, a goal expected to be reached this year, a second entity will operate another 5G network in parallel. Contracts to build the second network will be awarded through an open tender process, the country’s Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said.
Ending DNB’s monopoly was a promise Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim made during last year’s general election. Having dual networks will increase capacity and reduce the risk of service failure.
As of now, the country has completed 57.8% of the 5G rollout in the country, according to Fahmi. He noted that roughly 2,000 5G transmitter sites will be built. The switch from a single to a dual wholesale network, he said, would be implemented in line with global practices.
Fahmi also said that “approximately half” of Malaysia’s mobile network operators will participate in the DNB-operated 5G network. Others will use the second network as Malaysia switches to a dual network system next year.
Last month, the country’s Communications and Digital Minister announced the formation of a 5G task force to ensure 5G deployment under DNB achieves 80% population coverage by the end of 2023.
The task force will ensure a smooth transition to the dual 5G network, set to begin early next year. Maxis CEO’s statement came a day after the 5G task force said it focused on resolving DNB’s 5G access agreements.
It is important to note Maxis previously signed memorandums of understanding with Huawei to develop 5G uses. There had been rumors that Huawei intended to be the second company offering a 5G network. The rumors led to the US and Europe voicing concerns about Malaysia’s security if Huawei provided the network.