Malaysia Revokes 5G Spectrum Allocations Following Backlash


By Catherine Sbeglia

Malaysian regulators have reportedly reversed an earlier decision to assign spectrum to operators in lieu of a bidding process. In a decision Bloomberg called an “abrupt departure” from the original plan, the Communications Minister of Malaysia Saifuddin Abdullah had instructed the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to allocate 5G spectrum to five companies, bypassing a tender process and abandoning plans to deploy a joint nationwide network. Now, however, it appears that the order has been revoked following legal and technical obstacles, as well as unease about the lack of transparency around the sudden change of plans.

In January, MCMC announced its intentions to allocated 2×30 megahertz blocks of 700 MHz and 100 megahertz of 3.5 GHz spectrum through an open tender process, having identified those bands as the pioneer spectrum bands for the Malaysia’s 5G networks.

When the tender was bypassed suddenly in May, however, and incumbents Celcom Axiata, Maxis and Digi were simply assigned 2×10 megahertz blocks of 700 MHz spectrum, while Telekom Malaysia and Altel Communications each received and additional 2×5 megahertz.

Previously, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had commented that the country was on track to commercially launch 5G technology in the third quarter of 2020, and whether the back and forth around spectrum allocation will delay that proposed timeline remains to be seen.

Malaysia has also made the notable decision to work with Chinese equipment vendor Huawei, despite the ongoing conflict surrounding the company. Specifically, Huawei will provide 4G and 5G services to Maxis, as well as Celcom and Telekom Malaysia.

Malaysia Minister Gobind Singh Deo commented that while the country is aware of the “concerns that have been expressed around the world” about Huawei, Malaysia will be governed by its own security standards in choosing partners.

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