Pakatan, claiming DNB monopoly over 5G spectrum a public liability, wants matter debated in Parliament

The monopoly over the 5G spectrum could also see various 'legacy' issues crop up should newer technology emerge, said Pakatan leaders. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
The monopoly over the 5G spectrum could also see various 'legacy' issues crop up should newer technology emerge, said Pakatan leaders. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 ― Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders said today they want the government’s 5G plans to be debated in Parliament, claiming Putrajaya’s proposed set up of the RM16 billion special purpose vehicle (SPV) that would have total control over the spectrum distribution right could potentially expose the public to massive debt.

The main Opposition bloc had previously raised the alarm about Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), the SPV that would be given the sole control to develop and distribute the ultra-fast internet technology to private bidders.

Among the criticism was that the approach would forgo an estimated RM7 billion to RM12 billion in potential revenue. Unlike its predecessors, the telecommunication firms will have to “rent” the 5G spectrum from DNB, effectively making the SPV a monopoly.

The government had said it would issue RM8 billion worth of sukuk to fund the company.

“Because DNB will be fully-owned by the government, this endeavour makes it a contingent liability that can pose a risk of which the brunt of it must be shouldered by the people should the company fail to repay its debt,” PH said in a statement.

“This matter must be seriously reconsidered, in light of the government’s piling debt burden.”

The monopoly over the 5G spectrum could also see various “legacy” issues crop up should newer technology emerge, they claimed further. Telcos, for example, are only legally permitted to provide 4G technology to consumers currently.

PH called it an unfair legal hindrance.

“This is actually an unfair hindrance that removes technology neutrality, it should be reconsidered,” they said.

“Based on the risks we give above, we are of the opinion that the government’s 5G network plan must be debated in Parliament, including by the Select Committee on Infrastructure Development, before it is fully implemented,” the coalition added.

Six PH leaders had undersigned the statement.

Putrajaya could spend between RM16.5 billion to RM20 billion through DNB in the span of 10 years to develop domestic 5G technology, with a targeted 80 per cent coverage by 2024.

The expenses covering emolument for the 600 DNB staff alone would amount to RM2.5 billion, according to estimation by PH leaders.

The government has justified the move despite criticism, saying the SPV would help keep 5G costs low and accessible.

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