Maxis is currently the only commercial LTE operator in the country to offer LTE with Celcom Axiata expected to follow soon. Malaysia currently offers LTE (Long Term Evolution) on the 2600Mhz frequency band that is compatible with a small number of smartphones.
These smartphones include the Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE, Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, Sony Xperia V, Asus PadFone 2, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, LG Optimus True HD LTE, amomg others.
The other players that are expected to offer LTE on the 2600Mhz later this year include Puncak Semangat, DiGi, U Mobile, Packet One Networks, REDTone and YTL Communications.
However these 2600MHz LTE network will not work with devices such as the popular Apple iPhone 5 (Model A1429), 4th Generation iPad with Retina display (Model A1460), iPad mini (Model A1455) and HTC Titan 4G, among other devices. The reason for this is simply because a different band of LTE is supported on these devices, such as the 1800MHz.
MalaysianWireless revealed in early December last year that Malaysians buying the iPhone 5 from Maxis and Celcom Axiata would be able to enjoy LTE on their smartphone within months. We promised an update to that and right now we are a step closer to getting LTE on the iPhone 5.
A little bird told us that Maxis has received approval from the Malaysia regulator SKMM to offer LTE using 1800Mhz, an existing frequency band that Maxis already owns. We believe Maxis will be using either 5MHz or 10MHz for LTE on the 1800MHz( At the moment, Maxis has a total of 50MHz in the 1800Mhz band for GSM).
The commercial launch of Maxis 4G LTE network using the 1800Mhz frequency band is scheduled sometime in April(next month).
However devices such as the iPhone 5 in Malaysia would need to be “LTE-activated” via a software update from Apple to use LTE service.
For an example, Nokia launched the Lumia 920 in Malaysia with LTE turned off last year because there were no commercial LTE network at that time. The LTE service on these Lumia 920(s) can only be activated via a software update from Nokia which is yet to be released till today. However the current versions of Nokia Lumia 920 sold by Maxis today are LTE-activated by default.
It would be the same case scenario for the Apple devices. If you followed us on the MalaysiaWireless Facebook closely, we said in early January that Apple would only activate LTE on iPhone 5 in Malaysia if the mobile operators could succeed a 40 minutes seamless network drive test in a city across 19-20 cells.
We thought Apple was silly to have such requirement, however given a second thought, we believe Apple is doing the right thing. A good LTE coverage will result in better LTE experience, and happy iPhone 5 users. Its a long process for consumers to demand for a better mobile services, but for a giant like Apple, the Telcos will have to comply if they want to offer the iPhones. In fact, we recently found out that the mobile network of Maxis & Celcom are very much “iPhone optimised” to meet user experience.
At the moment, we are not sure if Maxis has been able to pass the “LTE test” from Apple, but we are very much confident that Maxis will do whatever it takes to satisfy those Apple requirements.
As for the coverage, we believe Maxis plans to deploy some 100 plus LTE 1800Mhz sites this year alone.
Celcom would also launch LTE on the 1800MHz frequency band, however we don’t think they have received any approval from SKMM yet. Plus Celcom is currently working hard to launch LTE on the 2600MHz band which should be sometime soon.
More updates, hopefully next month.