The Communications and Multimedia Minister Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah recently issued a Ministerial Order, directly awarding a 10Mhz spectrum in the 900Mhz band to Altel Communications, for a period of 5 years.
The Ministerial Order from the KKMM Minister was issued on 31 May 2021, posted deep in the website of Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
A direct spectrum award by a Minister is not a normal industry practice. No official announcement have been made to the public in the past 3 weeks to justify a direct 900Mhz spectrum awarded to Altel Communications. It is also unclear if the decision was made in public interest and if a tender process was in place.
This is the second time the Minister has directly awarded the same blocks of the 900Mhz spectrum to Altel Communications after the first Ministerial Order was cancelled in June last year. Back then, following the cancellation, he said the spectrum award will need to follow a “transparent process“.
Altel Communications is part of Altel Holdings Bhd, a subsidiary of Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd, owned by billionaire Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary.
In late 2012, Puncak Semangat was awarded the most block of spectrum (40Mhz) in the 2.6Ghz band to deploy 4G LTE services. MCMC defended its decision to award the biggest share of the 2.6GHz spectrum to Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd. The following year, Altel was launched but it offered its mobile services as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), riding on the Celcom Axiata network.
As a MVNO, Altel does not require any network spectrum to offer a mobile service.
To date, 9 years later, Altel has yet to build and deploy its own 4G LTE network (2.6Ghz band) for the public. Instead the 2.6Ghz network spectrum band are being “leased” to Celcom Axiata and Digi for a price not disclosed.
Apart from the 900Mhz spectrum, the Minister also ordered a five-year tenure extension of the 2.6Ghz band to Altel, allowing it to continue leasing the national spectrum to other Telcos.[PDF]- 900Mhz Band Assignment, Ministerial Order for Altel, as instructed by the Minister of Communications and Multimedia