Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Your 5G smartphone from Samsung Malaysia may not work with 5G Networks

This is a commentary

A 5G smartphone that does not work with a 5G network, that’s what you get if you purchase a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G from Samsung Malaysia right now.

A picture from the launch of the Galaxy Note20 series launch in Malaysia

Last week, when U Mobile opened up its 5G trial network to customers, I was super excited to try out the next generation network on my brand new Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G. Unfortunately, to my disappointment, the phone failed to lock on to any 5G signal despite it supposedly supported the U Mobile 5G frequency and my SIM card was already 5G-activated (the same SIM card could access the U Mobile 5G network with a Huawei 5G smartphone).

U Mobile was showcasing its 5G network using smartphones mainly from Huawei which appears to work with 5G right out of the box, if you purchase one from Huawei Malaysia right now.

During the 5G showcase, the Telco also had two Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G on display and it worked with the U Mobile 5G network. I was curious about why the 5G network didn’t work with my Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G smartphone, which I bought from Samsung Malaysia.

After some checks and further digging, I found out that the two Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G on display during the U Mobile 5G showcase were running custom 5G firmware from Samsung Malaysia and this firmware is not available on the consumer version of the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G. Further checks with Samsung Malaysia confirmed my suspicion that my Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G can’t support any 5G networks at the time writing. A Samsung Malaysia spokesperson told me over a phone conversation that the smartphone maker has not enabled 5G on its smartphones in Malaysia because we don’t have a commercial 5G network yet. And even if we have a commercial 5G network right now, Samsung Malaysia will only enable 5G on its 5G smartphones once it is satisfied that these new networks will provide a good experience for consumers.

Partly, the reason given by Samsung Malaysia makes sense, but they marketed their smartphones with 5G and there are now 5G trial networks in Malaysia. Customers who paid a high price for a Samsung 5G smartphone in Malaysia can’t use a 5G network.

For the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, Samsung Malaysia officially listed the following 5G bands that will work with this smartphone- N1(2100), N3(1800), N5(850), N7(2600), N8(900), N28(700), N40(2300), N77(3700), N78(3500). But it does not work with 5G networks right out of the box and Samsung Malaysia does not tell customers this little piece of an important information.

Currently a number of Telcos in Malaysia, including U Mobile and Celcom Axiata are testing 5G using the N78 band (3500Mhz frequency) which is supposedly supported by all the Samsung Malaysia 5G smartphones.

Is Samsung Malaysia misleading customers into buying a 5G smartphone that don’t work with a 5G network, pending a firmware update?

Apart from the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, among the other 5G smartphones sold by Samsung Malaysia include: Galaxy Z Fold2 5G, Galaxy Note20 5G, Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G – apparently may not work with a 5G network as well, pending a firmware update.

On the other hand, if you buy a Nova 7SE, Mate 30 Pro, P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ from Huawei Malaysia, it will work with a 5G network right out of the box.

Malaysia is set to commercially launch a 5G network on the 700Mhz and 3.5Ghz band, beyond 2022.

The issue with Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G doesn’t end here. Apart from the super high price, Samsung Electronics is selling two version of the smartphone with different major components/parts inside the phone, including a better and power efficient processor in one version and different cooling system. Despite carrying a similar price tag globally, not all Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G perform the same. The phone also supports different set of 5G bands depending on market.

Personally, the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G is a great phone with a gorgeous display and more but I think Samsung Malaysia mislead me into believing that it will support 5G right out of the box. This is my first 5G smartphone and it didn’t work with a 5G network.

As a long time Galaxy S series and Note series smartphone user, I am pretty much disappointed with Samsung Malaysia right now. Perhaps, in the future, I should think again before getting the next smartphone from Samsung.

This is a commentary.

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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