Malaysia’s DNB offers free 5G services to telcos

Free wholesale 5G services to be offered to Malaysian mobile carriers during the country's initial rollout

Malaysian state agency Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) said on Monday that it will offer wholesale 5G services to telcos at no cost during an initial rollout set to begin next week, amid concerns from telecom operators over its pricing plans. 

DNB, a government agency tasked with building and managing the entire fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications network, has yet to sign long-term deals with any mobile operator, with telecoms firms raising concerns over transparency and pricing issues.

DNB said 5G services will be commercially available from Dec. 15th in three central areas, including parts of the capital Kuala Lumpur (KL).  The free 5G wholesale services will be available to telcos until 31 March 2022, as DNB seeks to finalize its wholesale agreements with carriers. DNB has said it hopes to sign long-term contracts in early 2022.

Telekom Malaysia Bhd on Saturday became the first operator to sign up for 5G trials with DNB.  Malaysia’s top telco said it will be participating in the pilot trials in some parts of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and two other urban centres.

A “reference access offer” – a public document that will cover the details of the DNB’s 5G wholesale model, including pricing and service commitments – will be approved by Malaysia’s communications regulator soon following extensive feedback from the industry, DNB said.  

Operators that sign up to its wholesale plan before March 31 will receive further free access to all additional 5G capacity during the initial period of operation, it said.  DNB also reiterated that its 5G pricing plan would be cheaper for mobile carriers than the cost they have incurred for 4G.

Telcos have said under the proposed pricing plan, they could end up paying more than they would have if they introduced 5G on their own, as the plan did not take into account additional requirements related to issues such as traffic volume and contingency costs.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had earlier stated:

“The technical requirement for a 5G rollout is predicated by a strong foundation of 4G coverage and fibre rollout, without which, 5G rollout will not realize the optimal benefits of the new technology.

Rushing into a 5G rollout, which includes the early award of the spectrum does not make for a focused approach and a better use of financial and technical resources. Hence, the measured approach towards a 5G rollout and spectrum award.”