KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — A recent report indicating that wholesale pricing would be discounted until Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) achieves 80 per cent of nationwide 5G coverage is erroneous, DNB chief executive Augustus Ralph Marshall said.

This is following a Straits Times (ST) report citing industry sources as claiming that Malaysia’s top telecommunication corporations have agreed on shared ownership of DNB.

Ahead of the June 30 deadline for telcos to sign up for 5G network contracts and shares in DNB, the report said that a non-binding term sheet has been agreed on by six telecommunication operators and is set to be put to paper early next month. It also indicated that wholesale pricing would be discounted until DNB achieves 80 per cent of nationwide coverage, which is estimated to happen by 2024.

“I think that it is erroneous. We do have 5G available for free until June 30, which was yesterday, and that is for anybody who now uses 5G. Whoever offers 5G services, will end up having to pay for it until they sign all the access agreements (reference access offer).


“Once the access agreement is signed, I would think that it would be reasonable to expect some availability of 5G at special prices or hope it will be free, depending on the banks, if the banks say yes, it’s ok. At least until August 31.

“I do not know who said that. I am not a reporter, I didn’t speak to any reporter,” he added, when questioned again.

Although the ST report indicates that telcos will enjoy discounted rates for DNB’s wholesale pricing until 80 per cent of 5G coverage is achieved, technology website SoyaCincau had in its report, said that the matter raises the question of whether consumers would have to fork out more to access 5G, once extensive nationwide coverage is available.


"In most cases, the cost of data should decline gradually over time as data consumption increases on an annual basis. For example, 4G data used to cost about RM30 per GB in 2013 and today, 1GB of 4G data costs RM1 or less," the report said.

Putrajaya has been in constant negotiations with telcos in the country over the rollout of 5G, with CDMU constantly pushing back for more favourable terms — advocating for a dual wholesale network (DWN) model instead of the government’s single wholesale network (SWN) — which they claim would provide better optimising availability and pricing of 5G.

CDMU represents Celcom, Digi.Com Bhd, Maxis Bhd, and U Mobile Sdn Bhd, the big four telecommunications firms.

The report added that the agreement will include a price review that would be overseen by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission every three years.

CDMU claimed that DNB’s wholesale offering, which is set at RM30,000 monthly for each gigabit per second (Gbps) of capacity, with a volume discount rate of RM22,000 beyond the first 1,2000Gbps is expensive, especially when agreements are to be locked in for 10 years, when the cost of mobile data has shrunk by 97 per cent since 4G was launched in 2013.

But Putrajaya has insisted that the cost per gigabyte of data will come up to just 20 sen, less than half of what is currently being incurred.

CDMU’s resistance led to further delays before Putrajaya eventually gave in in March, by offering telcos a 70 per cent stake in DNB. A move that is said to ensure they have a say in the 5G rollout — and also hedges against being overcharged for wholesale capacity.

But out of nine telcos, only six, including CDMU, will take up equal shares in DNB, sources said.

On May 23, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz indicated to two of the big four telco firms that the government intends to stick to its June 30 deadline for them to sign up for 5G network contracts and shares in the state 5G agency, rejecting a move by the companies to demand a controlling stake in DNB.

On June 16, Zafrul told ST that an extension to “early July, but no later than that” was possible, if required, to tie up loose ends.