Govt reverses decision on 5G spectrum licences

Shares in TM, Digi, Maxis and Axiata slumped following news on the cancellation of the spectrum allocation

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by BLOOMBERG

BARELY a day after the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) received an instruction to award 5G frequency bands to five telecommunication companies (telcos), Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has rescinded his order on the basis of technical and legal issues.

“On the basis of technical and legal issues, as well as the need of a transparent process, I have directed the chairman of MCMC to revoke the instructions directed and to review the instruments immediately,” Saifuddin said in a statement yesterday.

He, however, did not elaborate further on the decision.

A letter dated May 15, 2020, instructed MCMC to appoint Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), DiGi.Com Bhd, Maxis Bhd, Axiata Group Bhd and Altel Communications Sdn Bhd as the licence holders for the 700MHz band meant for the 5G network.

“Eighteen instruments, including the directive and determination for the use of the spectrum frequencies in the 700MHz, 900MHz and 2600MHz ranges were pre- sented to me,” the minister said.

Saifuddin also said the management and control of the spectrum are based on the provisions under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and it is important for the development of the country, which covers telecommunications, broadcast, science and technology, maritime and others.

“The government through KKMM is committed to developing the country, as well as providing the best services in technology and telecommunications, high-speed broadband Internet access and the latest high quality information and communications technology facilities,” he added.

In MCMC’s final report on the rollout of 5G spectrum networks in January this year, the commission said the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz would be identified as pioneer spectrum bands for the implementation of 5G networks in Malaysia.

The open tender process would have identified the licensees with the best business plans and with the best track records for implementation.

Former KKMM Minister Gobind Singh Deo yesterday said these steps were meant to ensure that Malaysians would be able to benefit from improved digital infrastructure coverage and high quality connectivity, while the cost of services remained competitive.

As no pricing has been disclosed, it remains uncertain if the Perikatan Nasional administration is still adopting the same approach of not offering airwaves at excessive cost to carriers in order to reduce deployment cost and allowing consumers to benefit.

Shares in TM fell 2.27% to RM4.30, Digi dipped 1.32% to RM4.50, Maxis slipped 1.98% to RM5.44 and Axiata slumped 1.81% to RM3.79 following the news on the cancellation of the spectrum allocation.