Late last year Malaysia announced plans to push the introduction of 5G in the country back until at least 2022. Now, however, the government’s position has changed and some form of 5G could be available towards the end of this year.
The prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin this week announced plans to speed up the introduction of 5G communications. According to Nikkei Asia, he unveiled a digital economy blueprint that includes $3.7 billion for 5G network rollout. And although this blueprint extends over 10 years, by the end of this year, he suggested, some people will be able to use 5G. This would put Malaysia among Southeast Asia’s front-runners in terms of 5G internet and cloud service adoption.
The 10-year blueprint has an upbeat assessment of a digital economy that will boost GDP and jobs and generate over $17.3 billion in domestic and foreign investments.
What caused this change of heart is not clear. The government's previous stance had been to prioritize upgrading broadband and 4G and shutting 3G by the end of 2021. The next phase after this was meant to be the transition to 5G, but that was not expected to start until around 2022.
Consumer concerns may have influenced the move. Many end users may welcome faster communications, especially given close to a year of pandemic-led restrictions. However, we are a long way from knowing how pricing, for example, will work.
What we do know is that there are plans for a special purpose vehicle be created under the government to own and administer the 5G spectrum, with all telecommunications companies ensured a fair share.
This may be a response to a controversy last June about spectrum allocations that were not subject to open tender and whose beneficiaries included a company run by an allegedly politically connected businessman. These allocations were reversed.