Gobind: Pakatan did not award 700 MHz spectrum via minister orders, so why is Saifuddin doing it now?

Puchong MP and lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said that the award of the spectrum to five licensees by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government via Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, rather than through an open tender process, is a matter of great concern in need of an urgent explanation. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Puchong MP and lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said that the award of the spectrum to five licensees by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government via Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, rather than through an open tender process, is a matter of great concern in need of an urgent explanation. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — Former Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo today demanded his successor Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah answer as to how the decision to award the 700 MHz spectrum to five telecommunication companies via direct awardship was made.

Taking to his Facebook, the Puchong MP and lawyer said that the award of the spectrum to five licensees by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government via Saifuddin, rather than through an open tender process, is a matter of great concern in need of an urgent explanation.

“The Pakatan Harapan government was not inclined to award spectrum by way of ministerial orders. We chose to adopt an approach with greater transparency and accountability in keeping with our agenda for reform and transparent governance. It was a challenge but we initiated a process to award the 700 MHz that began with a public inquiry (PI) in July 2019.

“When it commenced the process, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said that it was the first time MCMC was undertaking a PI on spectrum allocation matters. This shift was received well both locally and abroad.

“After months of study and consultation, the findings of the public inquiry were made public by MCMC in a report dated December 31, 2019,” Gobind said, adding that among others, the PI report had specifically stated that the 700MHz band would be assigned through a tender process.

Gobind said that for the first stage, MCMC was to make available the 2x30MHz of the 700Mhz band, and the tender was originally planned to be issued by MCMC in the first quarter of this year.

He pointed out that the open tender process was significant, as it would have identified the licensees with the best business plans and with the best track records for implementation, as well as identified ways to lower capital expenditure by minimising costs and prevent the duplication of infrastructure.

He said this could all be done, while leveraging on, and optimising current resources owned and operated by the relevant licensees.

“These steps were meant to ensure that Malaysians would be able to benefit from improved digital infrastructure coverage, high quality connectivity while ensuring the cost of services remained competitive. It is difficult to see how a direct award through ministerial order could in this context, achieve any of these objectives.

“There is therefore now a need for an explanation for the sudden shift in approach. Details of considerations which led to the award of spectrum as announced must be made public soonest possible.

“Details are crucial on this very important spectrum assignment as it would have implications on the development of our digital infrastructure and our economic competitiveness,” he added.

Earlier today, Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil said that the ministerial directive for the MCMC to allocate five firms with spectrum band for mobile internet services without tender, violated the ideals of transparent governance.

He called Saifuddin’s directive shocking, saying it begged the question of how the firms were selected for the allocations.

Fahmi said the MCMC report dated September 29, 2019 also indicated that the majority of companies that responded had called for a tendering process to be done, with almost no one stating that the 2x5 MHz spectrum block was suitable. 

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