Mobile subscriptions exceed population

The industry only added 100,000 new subscriptions between the January-December 2018 period

By NG MIN SHEN / Pic By TMR File

Malaysia’s mobile telecommunication growth is expected to hit a brick wall soon where there are more cellular phone subscriptions than its population.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) yesterday revealed that there were 42.4 million mobile subscriptions at the end of last year, a slight increase compared to 2017’s figure.

Previous figures showed that there were 42.3 million mobile subscriptions at the end of 2017, showing that the industry only added 100,000 new subscriptions between the January- December 2018 period. There were only 5.1 million mobile subscriptions in 2000.

Analysts have warned that Malaysia’s mobile market is facing saturation as the number of mobile registered lines is 10 million more than the country’s total population.

Malaysia has a population of around 32.4 million. Many Malaysians carry more than one mobile devices or lines. Foreign workers are also key users of these mobile devices.

The latest figures from the regulator also showed that mobile broadband posted strong growth, but fixed voice line is going into a tailspin.

“Mobile broadband subscriptions in 2018 increased to 36.8 million compared to 10,000 in 2005. This is after the 3G service was launched and an extensive rollout of 4G long-term evolution (LTE) services since 2012 contributed to the surge in mobile broadband subscriptions,” MCMC stated.

But the advent of mobile telecommunications has impacted the direct exchange line with the latter’s subscriptions dropping to 2.6 million last year from 4.6 million in 2000, MCMC said.

MCMC said service providers’ revenue over the last 20 years has been driven by connectivity and the substitution of fixed voice with mobile and recently, mobile broadband.

Telecommunication companies’ capital expenditure (capex) dropped last year to RM5.21 billion compared to RM6 billion in 2017.

“This is mainly due to 4G LTE buildouts and network already reaching national coverage of above 70%,” MCMC said in the statement.

The regulator said all stakeholders are committed to ensure everyone can enjoy high-speed broadband (HSBB) at a reasonable price.

Its chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak said close collaborations between stakeholders are required to accelerate connectivity.

“For 2019 and over the next few years, service providers have expressed commitment to increase their capex for growth and offer new digital services. Going forward, with artificial intelligence and big data analytics, service providers can optimise their resources for more personalisation.

“This provides the pathway for further monetisation of service provider network assets from business-to-business and business-to-consumer,” he said in the statement.

MCMC also pointed to the Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing implemented last year, which serves to regulate the wholesale prices for HSBB services.

The new price regulation has enabled service providers to acquire HSBB services at more attractive prices, which enabled cost savings to be passed down to consumers.

“The implementation resulted in an almost immediate price reduction of more than 30% for entry-level HSBB packages in December 2018. Concurrently, some service providers have offered higher speeds at the same price,” MCMC said.

Meanwhile, the sector’s market value on Bursa Malaysia rose to RM135.7 billion, almost three times more than RM50.7 billion recorded in 1999.

The regulator said the industry generated a revenue of RM51.6 billion in 2018 with the telecommunication sector contributing RM35.9 billion or 69% of the total value.

The broadcasting segment accounted for 12% or RM6.4 billion, while the postal sector contributed 5% or RM2.4 billion.

The remaining 14% or RM7 billion was derived from non-public listed licencees and others.