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Former Minister Gobind questions the Award of 700Mhz Band in Malaysia

Former Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo today questioned the award of the 700Mhz spectrum band in Malaysia moments before the current the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Dato’ Saifuddin bin Abdullah made a “U-turn” on his decision.

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Seated at centre: Former Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo

Yang Berhormat Gobind Singh Deo, currently a member of Parliament, questioned the reason for a direct award of the 700Mhz spectrum by Dato’ Saifuddin bin Abdullah. On his Facebook page, the YB also asked the current Minister to clarify “the criteria used to select the providers, the revenue to the government and the benefits that Malaysians can hope to achieve therefrom.”

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Full text below:

The award of the 700 MHz spectrum to five licensees by the Perikatan Nasional government through Ministerial orders rather than through an open tender process, is a matter of great concern which calls for an urgent explanation.

The Pakatan Harapan government was not inclined to award spectrum by way of Ministerial orders.

We chose to adopt an approach with greater transparency and accountability in keeping with our agenda for reform and transparent governance.

It was a challenge but we initiated a process to award the 700 MHz that began with a Public Inquiry in July 2019.

When it commenced the process, MCMC said that it was the first time MCMC was undertaking a PI on spectrum allocation matters. This shift was received well both locally and abroad.

After months of study and consultation, the findings of the Public Inquiry were made public by MCMC in a report dated 31st December 2019.

Amongst others, it specifically stated that the 700MHz band would be assigned through a tender process.

For the first stage, MCMC was to make available 2x30MHz of the 700Mhz band. The tender was originally planned to be issued by MCMC in the first quarter of 2020.

This open tender process was significant in that it would have identified the licensees with the best business plans and with the best track records for implementation.

It would also have identified ways to lower capital expenditure (“CAPEX”) by minimising costs and prevent the duplication of infrastructure whilst leveraging on and optimising current resources owned and operated by the relevant licensees.

These steps were meant to ensure that Malaysians would be able to benefit from improved digital infrastructure coverage, high quality connectivity while ensuring the cost of services remained competitive.

It is difficult to see how a direct award through Ministerial Order could in this context, achieve any of these objectives.

There is therefore now a need for an explanation for the sudden shift in approach. Details of considerations which led to the award of spectrum as announced must be made public soonest possible.

Details are crucial on this very important spectrum assignment as it would have implications on the development of our digital infrastructure and our economic competitiveness.

Reasons must therefore be given for the need for a direct award, the criteria used to select the providers, the revenue to the government and the benefits that Malaysians can hope to achieve therefrom.

Dated 3rd June, 2020
GOBIND SINGH DEO
MP Puchong

Source

Earlier, it was reported on MalaysianWireless that the 700Mhz spectrum band for Malaysia 5G services were awarded to 5 Telcos on 15 May 2020, namely: Altel Communications, Maxis, Celcom Axiata, Digi and Telekom Malaysia.

Altel was reported to have been assigned spectrum in the 900Mhz band as well.

No announcement were made to the public during the past 2 weeks.

Following the report on multiple media portals, the current Minister of Communications and Multimedia decided to make a “U-turn” and cancelled his decision for the spectrum assignment on 700Mhz and 900Mhz bands today. The “U-turn” decision was made “Based on technical issues, laws and the need to follow a clear process”.

No apologies were made for the confusion and for keeping the public in the dark in the past 2 weeks.

About Kugan

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