DNB may face challenges on 5G deployment

Speed might be limited due to the SWN approach


MALAYSIA’S deployment of 5G, which will be done by a special-purpose vehicle known as Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), may have several challenges to overcome mainly due to the size of its spectrum.

Windsor Place Consulting Pte Ltd principal Scott Minehane said in a 5G environment, each carrier operator would need more than 1,000 MHz for coverage and capacity spectrum.

“What we have in Malaysia at the moment is 610 MHz of spectrum and what has been proposed to DNB is 180 MHz of spectrum plus millimetre wave, one-third of the existing operators.

“For comparison, in the Philippines, a new carrier there has more than 210 MHz including more 5G spectrum than what has been proposed for a monopoly provider in Malaysia,” he said during a webinar titled “Advancing Digital Malaysia” by GSM Association yesterday.

Among the issues that will occur include its impact on speed, which might be limited due to the single wholesale network (SWN) approach.

“You will have an impact on speed because effectively you are funnelling all of the traffic in a spectrum into this one monopoly provider.

“It is not going to be as compelling as they could be compared to other markets because (when you) have less spectrum, you have less ability at least on the radio side to provide a high-speed service,” he said.

DT Economics Associate Partner Dr Lara Stoimenova highlighted risks that are associated with the deployment of the 5G network in Malaysia, including lack of clarity in policy objectives and its adverse impact on economic efficiency.

She said there needs to be clarity on the policy objectives for the DNB to ensure it fits its purpose and its performance is judged against an appropriate set of strategic key performance indicators.

“Given the Malaysian government’s emphasis on reducing the deployment costs of the 5G network with the creation of the DNB, there is a risk that productive efficiency is maximised to the detriment of allocative and dynamic efficiency,” she said based on a report done by DT Economics titled “Safeguarding the Road to 5G in Malaysia”.

Other risks include unclear approach to the spectrum, such as its pricing, and unclear regulatory approach to whole prices of 5G services.

She said in the absence of regulation, allowing the DNB to set its own wholesale prices risks introducing competitive distortions to the detriment of competition, choice and investment at the relative level.

Poor quality of service outcome, unclear approach to network resilience, DNB’s financing and funding risks, and lack of clarity on DNB’s mandate are also outlined as risks to a successful execution of the deployment.

To mitigate the risks, she noted there needs to be flexibility and additional deployment options such as allowing mobile network operators to use their current spectrum holdings to provide 5G services.