Malaysia’s state-run 5G agency under fire again

Malaysia’s state-run 5G agency under fire again

Malaysia’s controversial shared network access approach to 5G may have received another setback with rumoured demands for a bigger stake and reviews of the plan from the four largest Malaysian operators, Celcom Axiata Bhd, DiGi Telecommunications, Maxis Bhd and U Mobile.

The operators apparently want a combined majority stake of 51% or more in the proposed state-run 5G agency, called Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), after the government offered them combined minority ownership. This was part of a proposal offering up to 70% of the country's sole 5G network to a wider group of companies.

Reuters, which broke the story, adds that all four operators also want a review of the pricing model and network access plan offered by the agency.

As we have previously reported, the state-run network will charge operators for 5G access rather than allocating them spectrum. The four operators had said they felt this system could undermine competition and called for a second 5G network. However, they eventually accepted the government's alternative proposal for equity stakes in DNB, though it now seems that this has proved unsatisfactory.

In addition, pricing and transparency relating to the 5G wholesale model are still issues for the four operators, who are worried about costs for customers, a potentially slow adoption rate, and DNB’s apparently monopoly position.

DNB insists that it will charge operators less to access its 5G network than their costs for 4G. It has also offered 5G trial services to carriers for free until 30 June as it begins network deployment.

As Reuters says, agreement on DNB's Reference Access Offer (RAO) setting out pricing, service commitments and other details is a crucial step before the four operators can sign long-term deals with DNB to deploy 5G (two smaller operators have already signed up).

The objections of Celcom Axiata Bhd, DiGi Telecommunications, Maxis Bhd and U Mobile to the government's plans risk delaying the process of selling stakes that the government had hope to conclude by the end of June.

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