It looks as though Malaysia’s plans for one, state-owned 5G network, rather than two – or indeed rather than any form of private provision – will now go ahead. However, the government has made at least one significant concession to operators.
It plans to offer up to 70% equity in the wholly state-owned 5G agency Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), which is tasked with deploying 5G. Allowing operators to hold equity stakes will, the finance and communication ministries have suggested, speed up the construction of infrastructure. It seems the government also wants to maintain policy continuity by not changing its 5G plans at this stage.
The government will retain a 30% equity stake in DNB. The agency itself will be regulated by the communications ministry.
As we reported two days ago, this announcement was promised after the matter was raised in Cabinet last week. There is, however, still some uncertainty about the final shape of the proposed equity deal.
Reuters quotes the finance and communication ministries ministries as saying: "Ownership, equity value, and other aspects related to this proposed equity participation are subject to negotiations between DNB and telecommunications companies, with an agreement set to be finalized in the near future.”
So will this be enough? We are still waiting for a response from major operators Celcom, DiGi.com Berhad and Maxis Berhad.
However, we know that they have long been lobbying for a structure based around two networks, because they feel that a single, shared 5G network functioning on what appears to be a wholesale basis could stymie competition and be more costly than if they deployed 5G networks themselves. DNB, however, believes they will pay less for accessing its 5G network than they incurred for 4G.
Apportioning spectrum to service providers had been considered, but this approach was abandoned last year.