Celcom to sunset 3G networks by year-end


MOBILE network operator, Celcom Axiata Bhd, is actively upgrading its remaining 3% of 3G subscribers to 4G by year-end.

Celcom CEO Mohamad Idham Nawawi (picture) said the group is also working with business-to-business and enterprise customers who are still using the 3G network to opt for higher bandwidth for their end-to-end requirements.

“We expect the migration of 3G devices and customers to conclude before year-end, but the actual shutting down of the network can happen at the end of the year itself.

“Across the period, we also conducted a few pilots in shutting down the 3G network in two clusters to better understand the impact of the exercise,” he said at a virtual Celcom’s first-quarter (1Q) business performance media briefing last Friday.

Celcom continued its growth momentum in 1Q with positive performance across core revenue segments, evidenced by 317,000 quarter-on-quarter increase in subscriber base.

The mobile telecommunications company experienced improved operational profitability and growth in revenue in the quarter under review after adding more than one million subscribers over the last 12 months.

Celcom recorded revenue growth of RM84 million or 5.4% growth year-on-year (YoY) in the quarter, while Ebitda grew to RM142 million or 27.6% higher YoY.

Excluding one-off impact from accelerated depreciation of the 3G assets, profit after tax and minority interests rose 13.2% on the back of improved performance together with lower net finance costs.

Its group CFO Jennifer Wong said Celcom has allocated RM1 billion for its capital expenditure this year, not too far from the amount it usually spends per year.

“With the National Digital Network, or Jendela, and 3G shut down, 70% of this will be used to improve our network,” she said.

The pandemic and Movement Control Order (MCO) had also accelerated digitalisation among Malaysians.

In 1Q, Celcom recorded almost 70% data traffic growth with 474 million gigabytes (GB), compared to 1Q20. Data usage per month per user also increased by 46.1% YoY with 21.8GB per month per user compared to 14.9GB per month per user a year earlier.

Addressing the rapid data traffic growth accelerated by the MCO, Celcom strives to ensure high network resiliency and availability.

To date, through accelerated network investments, Celcom has upgraded and optimised over 7,000 sites, resulting in enhanced capacity and coverage, within both rural and urban areas, and a 93% 4G population coverage nationwide.

To ensure Malaysians are digitally enabled with 4G network services on the nation’s widest network, Mohamad Idham said Celcom has launched attractive device bundling and product offers to make it easier for customers to switch from 3G devices to 4G smartphones through multiple channels.

“We will continue to work to raise the quality of our 4G network coverage and experience, as well as ensuring our customers have a seamless transition from 3G to 4G.

“We will also work on expanding the reach of our high-speed broadband convergence services to sustain the growth momentum forward.

“Celcom will also continue to work closely with the government and industry players to achieve the nation’s digital aspirations and create a ‘win-win-win’ situation that will benefit the rakyat, the government and the digital ecosystem.

“We look forward to maintaining our industry leadership position as Malaysia’s widest network provider,” Mohamad Idham concluded.

Celcom’s prepaid customer base saw growth of 893,000 subscribers, or 17.7% surge YoY, primarily from Celcom Xpax Truly Unlimited Plan with a resilient average revenue per user of RM30. Postpaid customer base increased to 120,000 new subscribers or 4.1% increase YoY, supported by Celcom MEGA and Celcom XP Lite plan enhancements.

Mohamad Idham declined to comment on the progress of the proposed Celcom-Digi merger negotiations.