Celcom to roll out 5G within ‘matter of months’

Part of our network is already in the LTE advanced plus and is ready to take on the new technology, says CEO

by ASILA JALIL/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

CELCOM Axiata Bhd is prepared to deploy its 5G technology services in Malaysia once the government approves a new allocation of the 5G spectrum bands.

The rollout of the service will take “just a matter of months” for the telecommunications company (telco) as it has already upgraded its core network for 5G, with only capacity left to be added, Celcom CEO Mohamad Idham Nawawi (picture) said.

“Part of our network is already in the long-term evolution (LTE) advanced plus and is ready to take on the new technology,” he told the press after a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing with Sunway Bhd and Huawei Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd in Selangor yesterday.

On the recently cancelled 5G spectrum awards, Mohamad Idham said the 5G rollout delay will not heavily impact Celcom as it’s best for the industry to rethink deployment strategies together with the government.

“For us, we know 5G technology is inevitable, so we have to be ready for it. The government and industry will work together to determine the right time for the technology to come out,” he said.

In May this year, a letter from Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah instructed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to appoint Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), Digi. Com Bhd, Maxis Bhd, Axiata Group Bhd and Altel Communications Sdn Bhd as licence holders for the 700MHz band of the 5G network.

However, after the letter was revealed in June, Saifuddin directed MCMC to cancel the 5G spectrum band awards, citing technical and legal issues, and the need for a “transparent process”. He also ordered the MCMC chairman to review the allocation process.

Meanwhile, the MoU inked between Celcom, Sunway and Huawei yesterday aims to explore a tripartite collaboration towards advancing smart township solutions encompassing the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence with 5G connectivity.

It will explore the potential for Celcom and Huawei to be the 5G technology enabler for Sunway Group, while Sunway City Kuala Lumpur (KL) will be the platform for the partnership.

“We have started the process as of yesterday by presenting to the authorities in terms of how to get the first pilot inside Sunway Pyramid mall and upon their approval, we should be able to see the pilot to go live either by early or middle of the fourth quarter,” Mohamad Idham said.

Celcom’s capital expenditure investment is estimated to be RM1 billion every year and the development of 5G will eventually take up a bulk of that amount, he added.

Sunway Group could also see a 10-fold boost in revenue from these 5G initiatives, its president Datuk Chew Chee Kin said.

“We also hope our business will grow with 5G technology. Maybe revenue will go up by five or 10 times instead of just incremental growth. Revenue will be a very important factor and we foresee the revenue we receive will be substantial,” he said.

The technology will be integrated in various aspects of Sunway City KL such as its healthcare, retail, educational institutions and residential sectors.

Among the projects in the pipeline is the deployment of 5G to transform the buses plying elevated lanes in Sunway’s Bus Rapid Transit system into autonomous vehicles.