Commentary: Malaysia’s 5G Fate On Tuesday Or D-Day For DNB?

The Communication and Digital Minister, Fahmi Fadzil who was supposed to resolve the nation’s 5G predicament by the end of March as mentioned in his previous statements has said now that he will bring this up to the Prime Minister come this Tuesday.

Although this has been dragging on for way too long, it looks like a resolution is in sight, if anything we have come to understand the Prime Minister decides state matters quite quickly especially when they are overdue and are holding back economic growth. The big question is will Malaysia opt for the continuation of DNB as the sole 5G service provider under the Single Wholesale Model or will Malaysia see a new model being proposed?

According to research house Kenanga, the Ministry would most likely allow DNB to operate as the main 5G driver but with additional duties and tasks. Kenanga said the new government seems to rally firmly behind the DNB-led SWN with an emphasis on an expeditious roll-out of 5G in preparation for the impending 6G in the coming years. The government also emphasises the need to bridge the digital divide between the T20 and B40 groups as it accelerates Malaysia to Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0).

But with CEO Ralph Marshall stepping down after his contract expired, who will lead Digital Nasional Berhad? The most capable person that comes to mind is Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim the former Maxis CEO who grew Axiata into the regional powerhouse it is today. With him on board, Maxis will surely join the other telcos and pursue the national agenda of digitalising the country with 5G. But I digress, the matter at hand is the SWN model which is like a death knell that even the global telecommunication body GSMA published an insight into Malaysia’s 5G dilemma.

In its report, GSMA said Malaysia’s 5G adoption rate was only standing at only 1% of consumers despite 47% percent of 5G coverage in populated areas. The report also calls for a more flexible framework to foster greater market-based competition, thus encouraging innovation. The report provides alternative options for Malaysia’s mobile future. One option would allow Malaysia to maintain the Single Wholesale Network (SWN) model it currently applies but voluntarily and led by retail requirements.

All facts point to SWN being an unpractical approach for 5G rollout, analysts, think tanks, and even global bodies frown upon the model naming it a failure as it stifles innovation and removes competition. If the new government is people motivated, then on Tuesday the outcome will have to be beneficial for the man on the street and the taxpayer.

Over to you Fahmi.

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