5G War Begins Again in Malaysia as Launch Nears

A. Amir

Summary Bullets:

  • Service providers are picking up their pace again in developing 5G capabilities.
  • Solution co-creation is key not just in building solution capabilities but also in driving brand share.

Early Pace of 5G in Malaysia

Malaysia had an early start with 5G.  The race between service providers began in mid-2019 when Celcom launched the country’s first live 5G cluster trial that enabled various use cases across multiple verticals (for more, please see Celcom Leads the 5G Race in Malaysia with 5G Live Cluster Field Trial,” July 29, 2019).  This was only a few months after the launch of the very first commercial 5G network in the world.  Not long after that, Maxis announced a partnership with Huawei to deploy 5G and develop use cases, Digi partnered with Cyberview on the 5G OpenLab to co-create 5G smart city applications, and TM shared its plan to be the first provider to offer 5G standalone (SA) network.  The government, MCMC, also played key roles in driving the technology development in the country.  It established a 5G task force in December 2018, hosted a 5G event in April 2019, collaborated with telcos and other industry players to launch 55 use cases across 32 locations (5GDP), and planned for commercial availability of the technology in the first half of 2020 (for more, please see 5G Enterprise in Malaysia: Strong Push by the Government Despite Low Market Maturity,” October 17, 2019).  It was ahead of many other countries in the region.

Continuous Delays and Single Wholesale Network Come into Play

However, it was not long before the unexpected change of government and the pandemic hit in early 2020.  The momentum died off after a series of spectrum allocation pushbacks, from H1 2020 to H2 2020 and then to end 2022 or early 2023.  Service providers went almost completely silent on their 5G initiatives.  The announcement on nationwide 5G deployment through a government-owned single-purpose vehicle (SPV) in a single wholesale network model in early 2021 came as a surprise as well.  While there could be some benefits from this model, there seem to be more challenges and drawbacks (for more, please see Malaysia 5G Through SPV: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back,” March 8, 2021).

The 5G War Between Telcos Finally Starts Again

After staying below the radar for about a year and a half, and with the 5G network expected to be launched in a few months, some leading telcos have finally resumed their initiatives on 5G and enterprise use cases.  In early September, Celcom announced its network readiness, and it has started working with the SPV on backend integration.  Meanwhile, Maxis is taking a further step ahead with its recent partnership with Malaysia Airport Holding Berhad (MAHB) to co-create 5G applications at the country’s main international airport, KLIA.  The initiatives will focus on smart airport use cases which include applications in smart travel, smart tourism, smart retail, and security.  This will increase operational efficiency as well as enhance user/traveler engagement through real-time customer insights and an omnichannel, personalized experience.  While the use cases are likely to be based on private network and edge computing, the implementation detail was not shared.  There could also be some potential challenges such as the integration with SPV 5G network and frequency bands.

What’s Next

Enterprise 5G is still considerably new even at the global level.  Besides connectivity services such as FWA, mobile branch, SD-WAN underlay, and private networking, 5G can also enable various new enterprise applications across different industries.  However, the ecosystem is still somewhat fragmented, and there are limited commercial applications, as many are still in the development stage.  Enterprise 5G application today is still largely seen as a solution looking for a problem.  However, with the 5G network launch around the corner, now is the critical time for service providers to build their brand share and sharpen their capabilities.  Solution co-creation is one proven approach.  Service providers can build 5G solution capabilities tailored for market needs through engagement with enterprises across different industries.  This will enable the providers to drive the solution ecosystem by attracting developers, OEMs, and IT players to co-develop end-to-end solutions.  The co-creation initiatives should also include technologies such as edge computing, network slicing, and private networking to address the diverse needs of the market.

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