Retirement of 3G network extended to March this year

By BERNAMA / Pic by BLOOMBERG

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25  — The gradual retirement of the 3G mobile network has been extended to the end of March this year instead of December 2021 as laid out in the National Digital Network Plan (JENDELA). 

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission chairman Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek said 79 per cent of the 3G network’s 2.1 million customers, or about 1.66 million, had migrated as of December 2021, while 80 per cent of 3G carriers, or 203,374, have been shut down.

“The remaining 440,852, or 21 per cent of customers, were contacted and informed of the shutdown date. They will wait until all 3G carriers are shut down before migrating to 4G.

“As for the delay of the remaining 50,486, or 20 per cent of 3G carriers, (this) was due to the flood and monsoon season,” he said during a virtual briefing for the JENDELA Report for the fourth quarter of 2021.

Fadhlullah Suhaimi noted that the shutdown was decided under the JENDELA plan because the number of infrastructure and spectrum levels required to support the 4G network is high.

He said it was also driven by current users’ behaviour trend which was more inclined towards data usage, which is better served on 4G, compared with voice, which was better served on 3G.

“Admittedly, there will always be initial challenges as (a mobile network is) shut down but the number is not huge. Therefore, we will keep on focusing to drive the improvement of 4G coverage,” he said.

Between January and December 2021, he said MCMC recorded an overall 200,675 network complaints with 4G quality of service being the main concern among complainants.

Johor Bahru recorded the highest number of complaints followed by Petaling, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, and Klang, he said.

JENDELA will continue to optimise 4G coverage and had upgraded 2,661 communication towers and completed the development of 86 new site towers from the five districts with the highest complaints.

As of September 2021, 94.03 per cent of populated areas were given 4G coverage, with 1,189 new 4G towers being built. At the same time, a total of 1.89 million new premises came under fibre optics coverage, he said.

However, Fadhlullah Suhaimi noted that complaints regarding network coverage have persisted, especially from very rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak, and this has to be addressed.

MCMC will be taking the 4G quality audit in every state in Malaysia and this report will be made public.  Service providers will also be notified of the performance of the network and the improvement needed, he said.

On another note, he said that a total of 6.85 million premises had received Internet with the speed of 37.30 Mbps as of Dec 31, 2021, surpassing JENDELA’s 2021 target of  6.5 million premises with 30 Mbps.

Moving into 2022, under the JENDELA’s fibre connectivity target, a total of 652,101 premises is targeted to be fiberised while to enhance 4G coverage in populated areas, 1,661 new 4G sites would also be built, Fadhlullah Suhaimi said.

“Expansion of 5G would also be implemented in major cities this year such as Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Perak, Johor, Selangor, Sabah, and Sarawak,” he added.