Govt assigns 700MHz 5G spectrum to 5 telcos

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by TMR FILE

THE Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) received an instruction from Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah to allocate the 700 megahertz (MHz) band meant for the 5G network to five local telecommunication companies (telcos).

The instruction was made under Section 7 of Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588) which allows the minister to issue directions to the commission.

The five service providers, which are Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), Celcom Axiata Bhd, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Maxis Broadband Sdn Bhd and Altel Communications Sdn Bhd, were awarded the 5G spectrum bands between 703MHz to 743MHz, and 758MHz to 798MHz.

TM was awarded the 718Mhz to 723Mhz band, coupled with the 773Mhz to 778 MHz band. Meanwhile, Maxis Broadband, a unit of Maxis Bhd, was awarded the 733MHz to 743Mhz range and the 758Mhz to 768Mhz range.

The subsidiary of DiGi.Com Bhd, Digi Telecommunications, was awarded the 703MHz to 713MHz and 758Mhz to 768Mhz spectrum ranges.

Altel Communications was granted the 713MHz to 718Mhz and 768MHz to 773MHz ranges.

Axiata Group Bhd’s unit Celcom Axiata received the 723MHz to 733MHz range and the 778MHz and 788MHz spectrum range as well.

In simple terms, Celcom, Digi and Maxis will receive bandwidth of two times 10MHz for the 700MHz spectrum, while Altel and TM will receive two times 5MHz.

According to the letter cited by The Malaysian Reserve, the assignment takes effect immediately, but the minister has the right to change, modify or cancel the order.

MCMC announced its 5G bands for Malaysia in January 2020, in which the commission mentioned that the 700MHz and 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) bands will not be allocated to individual licensees.

According to a report by MCMC in January this year, a 5G assignment via a consortium was originally expected to be done through a bidding process which would allow multiple consortiums to bid for it.

The earlier decision was made to lower capital expenditure by minimising costs and to reduce duplications of network infrastructure.

“MCMC has identified the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz as the pioneer spectrum bands for the rollout of 5G in Malaysia, in light of the rapid development of the global 5G ecosystem and deployment.

“The 700MHz and 3.5GHz bands are being considered for allocation to a single entity comprising a consortium formed by multiple licensees, instead of individual licensees. MCMC will undertake a tender process for this purpose,” MCMC said in its earlier report.

As this is a new approach, MCMC said it will only make available two times 30MHz of the 700MHz band, and 100MHz of the 3.5GHz band.

The remaining frequencies of these bands would also be considered for assignment at a later stage.

As such, Saifuddin’s latest move came as a surprise to many industry players.

To date, there are six active telcos in Malaysia, namely Maxis, Celcom Axiata, Digi, U Mobile Sdn Bhd, TM (unifi Mobile) and YTL Communications Sdn Bhd (Yes 4G).