KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) unveiled today its publicly accessible 5G network as test pilot through mobile network operators YES and Telekom Berhad's Unifi Mobile, amid resistance from private service providers who accused the state entity's single wholesale network system as a monopoly.
Under the pilot programme, DNB said it would offer 5G services free to all MNOs that are integrated into its network. The offer will be applicable within the 5G “live sites” available at certain areas like Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur.
The offer will remain until March 31 next year.
“We are pleased to welcome both TM and YTL communication as our first very customers of the 5G network in Malaysia,” said DNB chief executive Ralph Marshall.
“Together they have almost 4.5 million subscribers and an average monthly data demand of 40 to 50 GB,” he added.
DNB, a special purpose vehicle wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance, is facing stiff resistance from private MNOs ostensibly over pricing and transparency concerns, with firms claiming the SWN system was akin to a monopoly and put private players at a disadvantage.
The MNOs have since urged the government to allow a second 5G service to be set up, according to a Reuters report that cited three sources and documents.
Malay Mail was made to understand that the resistance has caused disagreement within Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob's Cabinet, which could decide as early as next month on whether or not to allow multiple 5G services, according to Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa.
DNB officials have repeatedly defended the SWN approach and rejected claims that it was set up to compete with MNOs.
Marshall, speaking to several media organisations, said DNB is merely a wholesale provider that aims to provide equitable 5G coverage, as part of a national digitisation agenda that seeks to leverage on the high speed internet technology to improve livelihood and income.
Political leaders siding with DNB said the resistance towards the SWN approach was likely driven by “corporate greed”, citing the failure by MNOs to improve their own 4G services despite being allowed to operate in an open market, which has widened urban-rural divide in terms of mobile internet coverage.
DNB chairman Datuk Asri Hamidon, speaking at the 5G test pilot launch, refrained from commenting on the Reuters report.
“I think we just focus on the 5G (rollout first)... on that matter it’s better to let the minister comment,” he replied when asked at a press conference here.
YTL Communications Sdn Bhd Chief Executive Officer Wing K. Lee said the firm is excited to be the first in Malaysia to bring 5G to the public through its first-to market 5G plans.
“The availability of 5G, supported by DNB’s robust ecosystem will accelerate nationwide coverage and adoption of 5G,” he said.
“YTL Communications is committed to bringing a connected tomorrow to reality for all Malaysians.”
End users with 5G-compatible devices will be able to enjoy an average speed of 100 Mbps but at just a fraction of the price of 4G services, according to DNB. This means a user at the weakest point of 5G coverage would on average receive 100 Mbps on a 5G-compatible device.
“Crucially, DNB will provide wholesale 5G services to the MNOs at a significantly lower cost than their present cost to produce 4G capacity,” the company said.