Monday, March 27, 2023

DNB’s 5G Network will still not work on Samsung and iPhones – Comment

It’s been two weeks into 2022, but your Samsung and iPhones will not work with the one and only Malaysia 5G network, operated by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).


At the moment, 5G in Malaysia is mainly supported on devices made by China-based smartphone companies such as Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo, Realme, Vivo, ZTE and Honor. Only a single device from Nokia is supported.

The POCO M3 Pro 5G and POCO M4 Pro 5G from Xiaomi cost around RM700 in Malaysia and these super affordable 5G smartphones will work with the Malaysia 5G network.

But your RM3,000-RM8,000 Apple iPhones and Samsung smartphones will not work with DNB’s 5G network despite these are the top 2 smartphone makers in the world.

The 5G network in Malaysia is currently exclusively operated and owned by the Malaysia Government via Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). It has a list of smartphone that will work with its 5G network, so not all 5G smartphone will work, despite being compatible.

The fault is not entirely with DNB, but the smartphone makers as well.

Back in September 2020, I was excited to test out the U Mobile 5G trial network in Berjaya Times Square but it didn’t work on my Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G smartphone, which comes at a hefty price of RM5199 at launch. At the time, two Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G on display during the U Mobile 5G showcase were running custom 5G firmware from Samsung and it works with the 5G network without any issue.

5G in Malaysia will also not work on any compatible iPhones made by Apple, at least not yet.

The simple truth is, these smartphone makers have not enabled 5G on your super expensive smartphone, which they marketed and sold as a 5G device. This is something that Apple practiced since the early days of 4G, where iPhones only works on 4G networks approved by Apple. This is why it took a while for U Mobile to offer the iPhone for the 1st time and this is also why the iPhone does not work well with the Yes 4G network.

However DNB, the sole 5G network provider in Malaysia (for now), plays an important role as well. It has to work with the smartphone makers to enable 5G support on smartphones sold in Malaysia. But it has been a month since 5G was made available in Malaysia and this is taking too long.

Samsung released a major Android 12 upgrade in the past 4 weeks for its flagship smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G series alone got around two updates so far this month, including one security update. None of this firmware update included support for the DNB 5G network. In comparison, Samsung 5G smartphones sold in the United States are 5G enabled since launch and works perfectly with US-5G networks. So why the different treatment in Malaysia?


On the DNB website, the Government-run company said that support for 5G smartphones from Apple and Samsung are “expected by Q1 2022″…… not in Q1 2022, but BY Q1 2022, which technically means on/before 31 December 2021. Empty promises from DNB?

These are the full list of 5G smartphones that should be working with the DNB’s 5G network by now, but still does not:

  • Apple – iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • Samsung – A22 5G, A32 5G, A42 5G, A52 5G, A52S 5G, Flip 3, Fold 3, M52 5G, Note 20 Ultra 5G, S20 FE 5G, S20 Ultra 5G, S21, S21 Ultra 5G, S21+ 5G
  • Asus – ROG 5s, ROG 5s Pro, Zenfone 8, Zenfone 8 Flip
  • Motorola – Moto Edge 20 Pro
  • TCL 20R 5G

The list above does not include all the 5G smartphones that are currently available. Globally, there are 165 vendors that makes 5G devices, this includes 555 phones, at least 491 of which are commercially available, but this was back in October 2021.

How long will it take for DNB to get its 5G network to work on all compatible 5G smartphones?

Disclaimer: This is a commentary. Please refer to the respective parties/Telcos for official information.

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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