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Celcom is investing RM100 million to improve coverage, speed, customer experience

Malaysian mobile operator, Celcom Axiata Berhad said that it is currently investing RM100 million to improve network coverage, speed, customer experience and fibre infrastructure in the Klang Valley, Eastern regions in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, major highways, and tourist areas. These projects are currently underway and Celcom is expecting completion by April next year.

Celcom-quarter3-2013-media-briefing[(L-R) Chari TVT, Chief Financial Officer; Dato’ Sri Shazalli Ramly, Chief Executive Officer; and Jennifer Wong, Deputy Chief Financial Officer of Celcom Axiata Berhad at the Quarter 3 2013 Media Briefing]

Celcom is responding to recent “stern warning” issued to 3G operators that are providing mobile services on lower-than-agreed bandwidth, causing a deterioration in the quality of 3G services. MCMC has recently said that most of the 3G players are using the 900 megahertz (MHz) and 1,800MHz frequency bands to roll out 3G services instead of the primary 2,100MHz band meant for 3G.

Celcom CEO, Dato’ Sri Shazalli Ramly told MalaysianWireless, “We are continuing to improve the network. After we heard from MCMC, we went out and invested RM100mil.” The Celcom CEO also pointed out that there are a number of factors that contributes towards poor services including site take down and time to build new base stations. The company pointed out that 81% of its 3G services is currently on the 2,100MHz band.

“We firmly recognise that our current and future success lies in the hands of our customers and have committed significant investments to further improve customer experience and Celcom’s nationwide network quality and coverage. With this mentality in place, Celcom is confident to meet all key performance indicators (KPIs) for the year and hopefully for the years to come.”

To date, Celcom said that it has spent close to RM200 million for overall network quality improvement and system upgrades including to address the general industry issue of dropped calls.

At its Quarter 3 media briefing yesterday, Celcom reports that it has 13.5 million subscribers (14.6 million including subscribers from MVNOs) as of September this year. The Malaysia mobile operator claims that out of these numbers, it has 3.75 million smartphone users and some 200,000 LTE devices detected in the network.

Postpaid customers currently stands at 10.5 million and prepaid at 1.7 million. There are 1.2 million mobile broadband subscribers.

Moving forward, Celcom said it is expanding and improving Celcom 4G LTE performance by being the first to offer the fastest LTE speeds via its spectrum sharing agreement with Altel Communications Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd. Under the agreement announced in July, Celcom and Altel will each contribute 10MHz of their respective 2600MHz LTE spectrum allocations to a shared pool which will allow Celcom to deploy LTE at network speeds of up to 150Mbps per location.

As of September 2013, Celcom has 4G LTE coverage in major population centres in the Klang Valley, Ipoh, Penang, and Johor Bahru and expects to have 1,200 active 4G LTE sites by the middle of next year.

At its 30th quarter of consecutive revenue growth, Celcom’s revenue for July to September 2013 was RM2.02 billion, a marginal improvement over last quarter’s achievement of RM2.01 billion while bringing the total to RM6.01 billion for the year to date (YTD) and representing a YTD-on-YTD improvement of 4.2%.

The telco also saw quarterly EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) growing 0.2% to RM898 million from the previous quarter of RM896 million, bringing the total YTD figure to RM2.67 billion, a growth of 3.1%.

Celcom said it also maintained satisfactory PATAMI (profits after tax, amortisation, and minority interests) of RM568 million for the quarter, a slight drop of 0.8% from the previous quarter due to higher competition in the industry; this brought total profits for the year to RM1.69 billion.

“Moving into 2014 and beyond, Celcom will drive incremental revenue focusing on enterprise solutions, digital services and high-value customers, while at the same time drive infrastructure costs down through Smart Spend measures as well as improved productivity and LCN (low-cost network) initiatives. By balancing revenue and costs with customer-centric investments, Celcom will sustain its growth on revenue and profitability moving forwards,” Dato’ Sri Shazalli added.

Celcom’s CAPEX spend for the first nine months of 2013 stands at RM513 million with major investments going into its ongoing 4G LTE nationwide rollout, transformative IT deployments, new digital services businesses and ESCAPE – a personal entertainment space that was launched in August.

Celcom will soon be launching a new loyalty club called Celcom First Club and Celcom X Club within the next few weeks.

About Kugan

Kugan is the founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy