Malaysia skips 5G tender

Malaysia’s communications minister ordered the telecoms regulator to allocate 5G spectrum to five companies, bypassing a tender process and dropping plans to deploy a joint nationwide network.

The Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (MCMC) assigned 2x10MHz blocks of 700MHz spectrum to incumbents Celcom Axiata, Maxis and Digi; while Telekom Malaysia and Altel Communications, an MVNO controlled by billionaire Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, each received 2x5MHz.

Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Communications and Multimedia under a new government which gained power three months ago, issued the directive on 15 May, but did not cover the 3.5GHz band.

In early January, MCMC announced it was considering allocating  2x30MHz blocks of 700MHz and 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum to a consortium of licensees through an open tender, with assignment of frequencies in the 26GHz and 28GHz bands to be considered at a later date.

The first commercial services were expected to begin in Q3.

Altel Communications launched MVNO service in 2013 but owns 40MHz of spectrum in the 2.6GHz band which it leased to other operators. It aspires to roll out its own network, telling the regulator in August 2019 it was unable to do so with a single high-spectrum band, but the move would be economical if it had 700MHz access.