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The Malaysian government is sticking to its plan of deploying 5G through a single wholesale network (SWN). In a joint statement from the ministries of finance and communications and multimedia, up to 70% equity in the wholly state-owned 5G company, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), will be available to telcos. 

Malaysian finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz emphasized that the maintenance of the SWN model is the government's firm stance on policy continuity. “The implementation of 5G will drive the country's socio-economic transformation and this is estimated to contribute RM 659 billion to the value of GDP until 2030,” Aziz explained.

The finalized decision has come in contrast to the concerns among wireless carriers that a single, shared 5G network could hamper digital competitiveness. Nonetheless, the government will retain a 30% equity stake in DNB while the majority of the stakes are intended for operators. It is worthy to note that this special-purpose vehicle company was established in early March 2021 to drive 5G infrastructure development in Malaysia.

Accessing DNB’s 5G network is estimated to cost less than what major local telecom operators such as Celcom Axiata, Digi, Maxis, and U Mobile have incurred during 4G rollouts. In line with this, DNB has offered free 5G services to service providers until March 31 as part of its commercial trial. Aiming to achieve 80% coverage of populated areas by 2024, the trial is bound to be extended until June 30 to allow more operators to sign up.

Access to high-quality 5G services would accelerate the recovery of the post-pandemic Malaysian economy. Moreover, “the SWN model will help bridge the urban-rural digital divide to enable all Malaysians to enjoy high-quality 5G services and be widely available to them through telecommunications companies,” said Malaysian communications and multimedia minister Annuar Musa.

In retrospect, the Malaysian government refused the prior recommendation of having a dual wholesale network (DWN) model and selected Ericsson to develop the country’s 5G network infrastructure.

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