Celcom Axiata is on track with the sunset of its 3G network, targeted to complete by 31st December 2021. So far, the Telco has already retired the Celcom 3G network in parts of Selangor: Semenyih (Hulu Langat), USJ (Subang Jaya) and Bandar Klang, as part of its proof of concept (POC) and pilot cluster.
Last year, the Malaysia Government decided that it will retire the 3G networks in Malaysia by 31st December 2021, as part of its ambitious Jalinan Digital Negara Plan (JENDELA), to improve the digital infrastructure of the country, in phases from 2020 to 2025, targeting 100% 4G coverage and 5G speeds over 100Mbps. There are four 3G network service providers in the country, namely Celcom Axiata, Maxis, Digi and U Mobile.
A nationwide Celcom 3G network shutdown is currently in phases beginning September until 31 December 2021. However Celcom did not share the schedule of the affected areas of the 3G network shut down. A Celcom spokesperson shared that Celcom’s mobile network consist of 11,500 base station (2G/3G/4G) nationwide, with almost 10,000 of these sites supporting 3G.
To date, about 3% or 276,000 of Celcom mobile subscribers are still connected to the 3G network nationwide. Celcom said that it is targeting over 98% of its subscriber base to use 4G compatible devices by end of the year. At the moment, as of June 2021, 90% of the Celcom mobile subscribers uses a smartphone (2G/3G/4G). Celcom has 9.22 million mobile subscriptions in the network.
Meanwhile, when asked about Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for Celcom 4G prepaid customers, the Telco said that it is targeting year end or early next for VoLTE service to be provisioned for customers with VoLTE devices. At the moment, VoLTE is only enabled for Celcom postpaid subscribers.
Celcom is currently the only major Telco that has not enabled VoLTE for its prepaid subscribers. VoLTE is a major feature of 4G LTE and it allows voice calls to be made over 4G LTE networks, on compatible 4G smartphones.
As of June 2021, there are 6.12 million Celcom prepaid subscribers in the network. Currently, Celcom prepaid customers could only make calls via the Celcom 2G and 3G network. With the retirement of the Celcom 3G network in Malaysia at the end of 2021, customers without VoLTE will need to depend on Celcom 2G network to make and receive calls.
Commenting in a media statement recently, Idham Nawawi, Chief Executive Officer of Celcom Axiata Berhad said “The rapid growth of data traffic from our users indicates that our network is widely utilised as a primary internet access, especially in areas without fixed broadband alternatives, during this pandemic. Our accelerated network investments and optimisation efforts to improve customer experience in the New Norm are on track, with the cessation of 3G services by year-end”.
“We will continue to work to raise the quality of our 4G network coverage and experience, as well as ensure our customers have a seamless transition from 3G to 4G. Our network teams remain dedicated to provide immediate service resolutions and improvements in high-risk areas, as well in rural areas,” he added.
Celcom claims that it completed almost 95% of network upgrading works at approximately 9,500 sites, performed network optimisation at more than 3,600 sites and delivered 4G LTE coverage improvements at 3,200 sites, nationwide.