The Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA) plan by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was formulated to provide wider coverage and a better broadband experience in Malaysia, whilst preparing the country for 5G technology.
JENDELA plans to shut down 3G networks in Malaysia by March 2022. This is part of the government’s digital infrastructure plan with a shared aspiration for nationwide internet and communications coverage. JENDELA aims to strengthen the nation’s existing fixed and mobile networks to build a strong foundation for the eventual adoption of 5G.
With the telecommunications industry facing a deadline to end the 3G services, BusinessToday speaks to Maxis on their readiness for this migration.
Abdul Karim Fakir Ali, Chief Network Officer says that by the sunsetting 3G network, the spectrum for 4G technology can be re-used, resulting in improved speeds for 4G connectivity as well as larger network capacity to cater to the growing demand in data and internet usage.
Abdul Karim says Maxis met 100% of its targets for JENDELA in 2020, accelerating capacity with upgrades that accounted for more than 35% of total upgrades of over 16,000 sites. “Simultaneously, we continue to expand our fibre footprint, with over 6,500 premises passed.
“Providing the best customer experience through our ongoing commitment to strengthen 4G network coverage is a priority at Maxis.”
He says that Maxis is currently on track with 3G sunset targets for 2021 initiatives on both network and customer migration aspects well underway. The telecommunications company has successfully completed more than 24% of 3G carrier reduction and have already migrated more than 55% of the 3G customers to 4G, thus exceeding their initial target.
The upgrading and expansion plans will enable 3G users to enjoy much better mobile data speeds on the 4G network, with high-quality voice calls when swapping 2G/3G devices to 4G devices with VoLTE capabilities.
“Although the 3G sunsetting is targeted for the end of the year, the building and expansion of our 4G coverage to even more new locations are ongoing efforts throughout 2022/23 as part of the JENDELA Phase 1 National 4G target of 96.9% population coverage.”
Patrick Er, Chief Sales & Services Officer, Maxis says that the 3G sunset will be undertaken with a customer-first mindset, and Maxis will ensure that those impacted will have access to not just a much higher quality 4G network, but also access to affordable devices and plans.
“The gradual retirement of 3G is being done with a customer-first mindset, and we can assure our customers that we are with them throughout the way. We are helping our customers to upgrade their 3G devices to 4G for all three segments: mobile consumers, mobile enterprise, and M2M/IoT enterprise. We have been looking at all aspects of our voice and data services and already have plans in place to mitigate the impact on our customers. One of these plans is our investments to upgrade our network to support VoLTE which provides voice coverage on the 4G network.
“We launched VoLTE in October 2020 and it is currently being rolled out in phases to both prepaid and postpaid customers who are using VoLTE-enabled phones. VoLTE is an advanced technology that delivers crystal-clear sound over voice calls across the Maxis network, reduced background noise, and has the ability to surf at 4G speeds even while on a call. With VoLTE, calls can also be made at a 50% faster rate than the current 3G.” he says.
Maxis is also offering 4G devices at affordable prices via the Zerolution plan, to assist customers in the B40 communities. Meanwhile, there are also Government programmes such as Jaringan PRIHATIN to provide greater access to 4G devices.
On handling disruptions to business operations due to the migration process and addressing customer’s fears about the costs of upgrading, he assures that Maxis has taken steps to contain the situation.
“To mitigate possible migration challenges, we have also carried out live shutdown processes in H1 2021 and we found minimal impact on customer experience from this exercise. Customers will also be notified prior to the implementation, while updates via SMS, EDMs, and on our Maxis website are ongoing. Our dedicated Maxis staff are also ready to assist customers, at both retail and via our hotline with any questions regarding the 3G sunset including software and firmware upgrades.
In terms of timing, Maxis will continue to work closely with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and the industry to ensure smooth implementation in all states across the country.
“We also have our upcoming Balas Budi dengan 4G initiative which aims to encourage our 4G customers to help their parents, families, and friends who are still on 3G phones to upgrade to 4G. Our dedicated staff and lines are always open to all customers who have any questions or need assistance regarding the upgrade.
Maxis is currently ahead of schedule in its network readiness to sunset 3G, with expected completion before the end of the year. While they ramp up their communication and network upgrades, they are confident that once the majority of customers and the market migrates to 4G, it will only be a matter of time before the nation achieves 100% transition.
For customers who need to upgrade their phones or devices to 4G, Maxis has many device bundling offers. Customers are encouraged to visit the Maxis website or call customer service centres or appointed dealers across the country for assistance.