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UTM : 4G Mobile Broadband congested in Klang Valley, improvement needed in East Malaysia

Wireless Communication Centre (WCC) of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) released a whitepaper recently to understand the existing mobile broadband (MBB) performance and user experience in Malaysia.

mobile broadband

Left to Right: Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman, whitepaper lead researcher and Director of Wireless Communication Centre (WCC), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Dr. Marwan Hadri Azmi discusses proposed policies needed for sustaining and accelerating the deployment of MBB technologies at the Huawei Media Roundtable.

The study was conducted in four key areas of Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak across urban, suburban, rural and indoor areas. The study indicated that there is a serious need for enhancing 4G network capabilities in rural areas of East Malaysia. Although, Selangor and Klang Valley has a strong position in 4G services with consistent and stable results, there are signs that the network is becoming more congested in these areas. It also showed that there were indoor areas with poor cellular signal strength coverage distributions which can be further enhanced.

One part of the study include performance of mobile networks. Data for the research was collected between January and February 2016 involving major mobile networks in Malaysia. UTM researchers measured the performance of the mobile networks using Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphones and prepaid SIMs. The measurement covers two mobile broadband services, web browsing and video streaming. The video service are further classified to 720p low and 1080p high resolution Youtube videos, while three distinctive webpages (Google, Instagram and Mstar) are browsed for web services.

Below are the key summaries concluded from the Mobile Broadband research project:

  • 4G technology had superior Mobile Broadband performances to 3G technology. These differences were consistent across all mobile operators, and are unsurprising, as we would expect consumers to experience a noticeable improvement in using a mobile broadband service over a 4G network, compared to a 3G network.
  • Within all considered measurement areas (states), Selangor and Klang Valley put in strong first place in 4G services showing consistent and stable results in majority of the KPIs when compared to Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.
  • From user perspective, the Klang Valley dense urban morphology showed to be nearly covered with 4G service with more than 99% of the Mobile Broadband test attempts were accessing the 4G network.
  • Among all outdoor morphologies in Klang Valley, suburban outperformed urban and dense urban Klang Valley in 4G services. This is one of the indications that the 4G network in a high dense population area in Malaysia is becoming congested.
  • Our results showed that there is still performance gap to be closed between the West and East Malaysia. Our measurement results indicated that West Malaysia performed better than the East Malaysia in 4G Mobile Broadband services.
  • There is still a huge performance gap to be filled by rural morphology in 4G services. Based on the total test attempts, rural morphology had the lowest 4G test count percentage among all studied morphologies. This indicates that the 4G network in rural is sill under developed.
  • When comparing the two most distinctive urban and rural morphologies, on average across all MNOs and states, Malaysia urban morphology is superior to its rural counterpart in both 3G and 4G Mobile Broadband services. The former showed superior web and video Mobile Broadband performances in majority of KPIs.
  • Our in-depth Cellular Signal Strength (CSS) analysis showed that there are buildings experiencing poor indoor reception. There are cases from our Mobile Broadband measurement where close to 40% and 14% of the test with measured CSS of lower than the minimum benchmarked of -90dBm for 3G network and -110dBm for 4G networks, respectively. This suggests that some buildings in Malaysia relied solely on the coverage coming from the base station outside the building, i.e. no indoor radio network planning.

Currently there are some 650Mhz spectrum used for Mobile Broadband services in Malaysia. The whitepaper reveals that the nation requires an additional 307 MHz spectrum to satisfy Mobile Broadband traffic forecasted by 2020. However, only 130 MHz out of 307 MHz can be achieved, resulting in 177 MHz of spectrum gap to be fulfilled, according to the study. To enable WBB (wireless broadband) requirement, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and IoT services, like video surveillance, even more spectrum is needed.

“Malaysians are progressively relying more and more on mobile services and connectivity, as the demand for larger wireless spectrum to support mobile and broadband systems with higher capacity is projected to keep increasing in the next few years. To meet the demand of high data traffic in mobile networks, providers need more spectrum to maintain the quality of service that consumers have come to expect and rely on,” says Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman, whitepaper lead researcher and Director of WCC, UTM.

In addition, the whitepaper expands on UTM’s plans and policies needed for sustaining and accelerating the deployment of Mobile Broadband technologies for the future. This is to realize the efforts needed to be made from Mobile Broadband stakeholders, including the government to achieve the desired serviceability envisioned in the year 2020. These stakeholders must close the gap between increasing data demand and the lack of sufficient wireless frequency spectrum to support the ever growing number of connected consumer devices and mobile traffic.

“Only 130 MHz out of 307 MHz required by our spectrum forecasting analysis can be achieved, hence we recommend additional policies such as allocating more spectrum for MBB services,” Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman added.

Other suggested policies for the development of Malaysia’s Mobile Broadband include government incentives to boost Mobile Broadband deployment. A prime example of this is the Universal Service Provision (USP) project for rural areas created by the government. The study suggests the need to open access to publicly funded infrastructures such as utility poles for outdoor base station deployment; and both public and private partnership to accelerate indoor coverage improvement. Operators are also encouraged to explore new LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) technology which uses the unlicensed frequency band of 5 GHz (currently utilized by Wi-Fi) in combination with licensed LTE primary frequency connection to deliver better downlink performance through carrier aggregation.

In order to maintain Malaysia’s ICT competitiveness in the region, the government, mobile operators and relevant stakeholders should work together to achieve a targeted KPI for national broadband service; such as the RMK-11 target which is 100 Mbps broadband made available to all households in dense urban and urban areas; and 20 Mbps broadband made available to 50% of households in suburban and rural areas by 2020. The study propositions wireless broadband to complement fixed broadband to integrate as part of a national broadband infrastructure. Underserved areas, especially remote rural areas can be serviced more rapidly to help bridge the digital divide in Malaysia by 2020. One of the key elements to achieve this target is by acquiring the right spectrum.

[Download PDF]– UTM: Perspective on Malaysia Mobile Broadband Development 2020

About Kugan

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