Thursday, June 1, 2023

Perak State Government Wants to Decide on Mobile Coverage

In a move to recover lost revenue from Telecommunications (Telcos) companies in Malaysia, a Perak State Exco was reported saying that it will soon implement a statewide ban on the construction of telecommunications transmission towers on buildings.

perak state malaysia

Bernama reported that Perak exco Hasnul Zulkarnain Abd Munaim said this was decided by the Telecommunications and Multimedia Development Advisory Council (MPIT) on May 16, and will be taken to the state executive council for approval.

“We have decided there will be no more transmission towers on buildings because we want them built on the ground.

“This will make it easier for us to monitor the towers in the state, because we do not want any more illegal transmission towers,” he said.

The move, if approved by the Perak state executive council, may likely affect coverage for a huge number of mobile users in the state. It is unclear if the ban will affect existing Telco towers on buildings or new ones. The media report did not mention if the Perak State Government would make the application process easy so Telcos could get these “illegal tower” approved for the sake of providing coverage for mobile users in the state.

Mobile Coverage is a major issue in Malaysia and it is one of the highest complaints reported by consumers in the country.

Telcos are not the only ones to be blamed for poor mobile coverage. One major challenges is getting the necessary approvals from State Governments/ Local Councils to build Telco towers. Each State Government across Malaysia have different requirement, standards and approval process.

According to The World Bank report last year:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]At the state level, poorly implemented arrangements for the development of infrastructure may result in increased costs and delays to the rollout of the network. In some states, land planning and use arrangements slow down or increase the costs of network roll out, posing additional challenge to network operators. Many states appoint a thirdparty entity to function as the intermediary between telecommunication providers and local councils. However, these state-backed companies often have exclusive rights to build or manage infrastructure used by telecommunications networks. As a result, states with exclusive partners for network deployment and where telecommunication operators are not free to build networks tend to have lower penetration rate. [/box]

In 2017, the Perak Menteri Besar at that time had said there were more than 2,800 illegally built towers belonging to various telcos in the state. He said each tower must pay permit fees of RM2,000 a year, meaning the state was losing RM20 million in revenue every year.

TowerXchange estimated that a new ground based tower in Malaysia costs around RM300,000 (US$69K). As Telco towers does not come cheap, this question arises: Why are there are so many illegal towers if the necessary approvals are easy to be obtained?

To resolve these issues, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo has proposed for Internet access to be made a constitutional right for every Malaysians. The proposal, if approved by members of parliament in the future, would guarantee Internet access (wired and wireless) for all Malaysians under the Constitution, be it in state or federal Government, just like water and electricity.

In March 2019, Perak was reported to be planning for a 5G pilot test scheduled in July 2019. With 5G, cell towers are so small, they can be positioned in ordinary places like on light poles, the tops of buildings, and even street lights or a bus shelter. Because high frequency waves have a harder time traveling over distance & through objects, the 5G network will be built on small cell site technology with antennas as close as 500 feet apart. This means that 5G cell towers will have to be located around “street level” and not just towers.

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

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