The Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) plans for its 5G coverage to reach 80 percent of Malaysia's population by the end of the year.
It comes after a turbulent few months for the state-owned DNB, which has built a shared 5G network for multiple Malaysian operators.
It follows uncertainty around Malaysia's 5G rollout, following recent reports that the country is keen to introduce a second 5G network next year to rival the state-funded DNB's, which was created by the previous government.
The DNB has seen its network heavily scrutinized by the country's newly appointed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's administration over claims of transparency issues, which led Ibrahim's administration to review the DNB's plan for a state-owned 5G network, with the DNB quite clear that it was to be only 5G network in the country.
For now, the DNB has got the green light to keep pushing on with its 5G rollout, with Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil telling local publication The Star that the operator must reach its 80 percent 5G coverage target by the end of the year.
Fadzil revealed that the government is confident of achieving the target, with the figure currently standing at 57.8 percent. He estimates an additional 2,000 more sites will help reach the number.
More significantly, the shift to a dual network was explained in detail, with Fadzil stating a second 5G network will be launched once the DNB's 5G target is reached.
"The shift to the dual network will be done according to conditions which are in line with global standards, (offering) multiple networks for the people as well as industries that are target groups for the use of 5G,” he told a press conference, noting it will put an end to the DNB's monopoly.
Fadzil also said that a dual network will offer the opportunity for the full participation of service providers, at the same time allowing services to be provided at an affordable rate to the people.
“In early 2024, we will enter the second phase, that is the shift to the dual network. DNB will continue to function, and service providers will become a part of DNB. This is in line with the initial talks of equity participation in DNB,” he said.
It remains to be seen what network vendor the country chooses to work with for its second 5G network, with the country warned earlier this week by the European Union and the US about the risks of involving Huawei in the build-out of its 5G infrastructure.
The report from Star said that the Malaysian government will not determine the infrastructure provider for entity B, the name given for the second network, by Fadzil.
Initially, all of the major Malaysian operators agreed to the single wholesale network, but only CelcomDigi, Telekom, and YTL penned an agreement to take an equity share in the DNB's shared 5G network which is supported by Ericsson, collectively totaling 65 percent stake in the agency, with the government holding the remaining 35 percent.