There have been speculation in the Malaysia Telecommunication industry that YTL Communications will be awarded the remaining spectrum in the 700Mhz band.
For Telecommunication companies, spectrum are valuable radio waves that are used for mobile networks.
Yesterday, the industry was in shock when MalaysianWireless first published a story about 5 Telcos being awarded spectrum blocks in the 700Mhz band directly by the Minister of Communications and Multimedia. The spectrum bands, worth millions of ringgit, was supposed to be awarded via a transparent, tender process and this was promised by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) early this year. On top of that, a copy of the Minister’s “order” was posted deep inside the MCMC website with no media announcement to the public during the past 2 weeks. This raises more questions than answers.
Among the recipients of the 700Mhz band is a little known virtual mobile network operator called Altel. A subsidiary of Puncak Semangat, Altel was awarded the most block of spectrum in the 2.6Ghz band to deploy 4G LTE services by MCMC in late 2012. However, during the past 7 years, Altel did not build its own 4G network infrastructure, instead it “leased” the spectrum to Celcom Axiata and Digi.
Altel was also awarded a 10Mhz spectrum in the 900Mhz band by the Minister.
U Mobile, which is one of the top 4 major mobile operator in Malaysia, in terms of subscribers, was not awarded the much needed 700Mhz band for it to expand network coverage. The other mobile Telcos that was awarded the 700Mhz band for 5G were Maxis, Celcom Axiata, Digi and Telekom Malaysia.
There are 2 x 45Mhz (90Mhz) spectrum in the 700Mhz frequency band. To date, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM) awarded a total of 80Mhz to the 5 Telcos. It is being speculated that the remaining 10Mhz (2 x 5Mhz) will be awarded to YTL Communications (Yes 4G).
YTL Communications is the company that operates Yes 4G, a mobile Telco in Malaysia. It currently offers 4G LTE service using the following frequencies: 2.3Ghz (60Mhz) and 2.6Ghz (20Mhz), a total of 80Mhz.
On top of these 80Mhz, YTL Communications have also gained access to a 2 x 5Mhz “trial” spectrum in the 800Mhz frequency band. This “trial” spectrum is currently being used to offer commercial Yes 4G services for the past 2 years. To date, MCMC has not made any official statement or announcement regarding how YTL gained access to the 800Mhz band for commercials services. Attempts by MalaysianWireless for a comment have also been ignored.
In the 800Mhz band, the block of spectrum, 798Mhz to 803Mhz paired with 839Mhz to 844Mhz, are reserved as “trial” to YTL Communications. Experts we spoke to said that this spectrum band overlaps with the 700Mhz spectrum band that was recently awarded by the Minister.
YTL has always shown interest to get a piece of the 700Mhz band in the past. In 2010, YTL Communications was allocated 80MHz of the much-sought-after 700MHz band. However the Government changed its mind later after the Industry pressured.
700Mhz not suitable for 5G – Editor’s Comment
MCMC has identified the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26/28GHz as the pioneer spectrum bands for the roll-out of Malaysia 5G.
However, the problem is: the 700Mhz band is not a global standard for 5G and it won’t be able to offer gigabit speeds as promised by 5G. Around the world, the 700Mhz band is being used to improve 4G LTE coverage and this is becoming a growing trend.
Major countries around the world have opted for 3.5Ghz as the main band for 5G. At the end of December 2019, most 5G devices such as Mifi/Modem/Smartphone supported the 3.5Ghz (N78) band followed by 2.5Ghz (N41) and 4.7Ghz (N79). Very few devices are supporting the 700Mhz band for 5G.
According to an article published on TheStar early this year, it was reported that “5G network running on the 700MHz spectrum is not ideal and that speeds will not be much of an improvement over 4G levels.”
“Malaysia’s 5G may then benchmark poorly against other countries like South Korea, Singapore and the United States which have opted for 3.5GHz as their main band, claims an industry executive.”
“He also claims that 5G on 700MHz will be more expensive to deploy and for end users given the lack of vendor support in the medium term. For now most of the 5G deployments are on 3.5GHz globally. Having 5G on 700MHz will mean that users have to wait for the ecosystem to mature before we see cheaper handsets and services.”
MCMC wants an average 30Mbps mobile broadband speeds by end of 2023, as part of the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP), but Telcos are struggling to deliver these kind of speeds everywhere, at all times, even with better frequency bands.
At the of writing, MCMC has yet to comment or make an announcement.