DNB confirms 5G accessible in 38% of populated areas in Malaysia after rebuke over coverage claims

by Alexander Wong

Digital Nasional Berhad announced at the start of the year that it has achieved close to 50% 5G population coverage with 3,900 sites deployed as of 31st December 2022. However, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has criticised the announcement, saying that DNB shouldn’t make coverage claims without verification from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Out of the 3,900 5G sites deployed as of the end of last year, we’ve been informed that only 2,800 sites are “on-air”.

We’ve reached out to DNB and it clarified that the 4,000 sites that have been deployed so far are referring to “integrated” sites which are deployed in compliance with the technical requirements of the MCMC, with almost 50% coverage of populated areas (COPA) nationwide. However, the number of onboarded 5G sites accounts for approximately 38% of COPA.

DNB’s breakdown of 5G coverage as of 31st December 2022

In a response to us, it said “DNB is required to deliver integrated sites and have them ready to be “onboarded” (what you refer to as “on-air” sites in your query), the timing of which is dependent upon the MNOs. The MNOs are aware of all sites that are ready and available to connect with their respective networks. It is then up to the MNOs to decide which sites and when they intend to onboard. Once a site has been onboarded, it then becomes available to end users for all the MNOs that have executed the Access Agreement with DNB.”

DNB added that they have noted a significant increase in on-air sites recently with onboarding averaging hundreds of sites a week, and the difference between integrated and on-air sites is narrowing as the network reaches more telco customers. In terms of usage, DNB saw a 23% increase in 5G usage since 1st January from 354TB to 426TB per day, with a peak of 121,000 concurrent users as of 31st January 2023. At the moment, DNB says its network is averaging 351Mbps download speeds against the average 4G download speed of 35Mbps.

5G Rollout as of 30 September 2022. Source: Q3 2022 JENDELA Report

During the previous JENDELA quarterly update, the MCMC reported that DNB has a total of 1,915 sites as of 30th September 2022. Out of this figure, 1,070 sites have been onboarded with national 5G coverage of 33.2%.

DNB’s original 5G deployment timeline

DNB aims to achieve 80% 5G population coverage by the end of 2024 with a total of 7,509 sites. According to the original plan, DNB was supposed to deliver 4,018 sites to achieve 40% 5G population coverage by the end of 2022.

While the 5G deployment plans are currently being reviewed by the government, Fahmi Fadzil has assured that DNB can still continue with their current rollout plans, however, they will not be able to sign new contracts. It was recently reported that DNB is looking at appointing a second 5G network equipment provider to deploy 5G besides Ericsson. The move is said to have the potential to reduce cost, accelerate 5G deployment and mitigate potential risks of depending on a single vendor.

Source: DNB confirms 5G accessible in 38% of populated areas in Malaysia after rebuke over coverage claims – soyacincau

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