Nokia in talks to be 5G provider in Malaysia

The firm is actively engaging with local operators, enterprises and the govt on trials, use cases and showcases of technology

by ASILA JALIL / pic by TMR FILE

FINNISH communications company Nokia Corp is in talks with relevant stakeholders in Malaysia to showcase its 5G capabilities, with the potential to supply 5G to the country once the technology is deployed.

The firm is actively engaging with local operators, enterprises and the government on trials, use cases and showcases of technology, while providing advice on the best practices based on Nokia’s 5G experience.

“We have engaged with operators for numerous trials over the past two years, the details of which are tied by customer confidentiality agreements,” Nokia country head for Malaysia Datuk Siva Shanmugam told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent email interview.

“As Malaysia has yet to allocate 5G spectrum or deploy the services, Nokia has not signed any 5G commercial contracts in the country. However, we expect further updates once the spectrum is allocated by the government.”

As of Aug 4, 2020, Nokia had 152 commercial 5G engagements worldwide, 85 commercial 5G deals and 33 live 5G networks.

Malaysia’s previous government had planned to commercialise 5G technology in the third quarter of 2020.

The spectrum bands were to be assigned to a consortium of multiple licensees, conducted through an open tender.

However, in June, it was revealed that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had been instructed in May to appoint several telecommunications companies as licence holders for the 700MHz band.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who had approved the directive, then directed the MCMC to revoke the instructions.

Analysts said this could delay the domestic deployment of 5G up to 2021.

Best known for its iconic handphones including the Nokia 3310, Nokia is part of the Malaysian government’s charter to promote 5G in the country.

In April 2019, Nokia joined a group of stakeholders which showcased eight areas that stood to benefit from the deployment of 5G.

The company has also conducted roadshows in selected states to promote 5G and showed unique cases that can be deployed in those areas.

According to market reports, mobile data usage in Malaysia will double between 2017 and 2022 to 10.4GB per user per month, driven by rising consumption of online video content on smartphones, Siva said.

The development of 5G in the country will enable consumers to explore new business opportunities as well as overcoming socio-economic gaps, he added.

This comes as Malaysia moves towards a new “Malaysia 5.0” digital economy that can compete in a disruptive technology world.

“5G will be the springboard for this digital transformation — enabling IR4.0 use cases and improving productivity at our ports, oil and gas fields, and factories. 5G will help push Malaysia towards the Shared Prosperity Vision 2020 goals that it has set for itself,” Siva said.

The 5G ecosystem is not limited to radio access equipment as it also includes Internet protocol (IP), optics, IP core, front and back haul and software solutions. Nokia’s portfolio includes all of these sub-systems.

“Two-thirds of our commercial contracts include more than radio access products, highlighting our portfolio and capabilities to offer a globally available end-to-end 5G solution,” he said.

The firm is anticipating “a virtuous cycle of investment” in the future where operators will continue to update their existing networks to reduce complexity and costs, followed by investments from enterprise customers in private wireless technology.

Saifuddin recently said the government will unveil the national IR4.0 plan and digital roadmap within this month, following discussions held among stakeholders and industry players.

He also said the government is expediting the improvement of connectivity for both fibre optic and 4G to ensure the rollout of 5G in Malaysia is done efficiently.