Despite Initial Hurdles, Malaysia Beats Odds to Display Impressive 5G Results

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By Matthias Foo | 3Q 2023 | IN-7038

Contrary to most expectations, Malaysia has surpassed other 5G forerunners in the Asia Pacific region such as South Korea, China, Australia, and Singapore, posting an impressive median download performance of 512.10 Mbps in Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence report in the first half of 2023. This insight takes a deeper look into the latest 5G developments and what’s next for the country.

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Malaysia Tops Ookla's Speedtest for 5G Median Download Performance


According to Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence for the Asia Pacific region in the first half of 2023, Malaysia topped the list of tested countries with a median download performance of 512.10 Mbps, ahead of other early 5G adopters such as South Korea, China, Australia, and Singapore. However, Malaysia’s results for 5G availability—the percentage of users on 5G devices that spend majority of the time with access to 5G networks—remained low at 8.6%. 5G connections in the country as a proportion of all connections was also reported to be one of the lowest at 3.7%.

Notwithstanding the low connection and availability, the country should take heart in the rapid development of its 5G network performance, particularly in the city of Kuala Lumpur. New 5G network launches, such as Maxis which recently launched 5G services in August 2023, are expected to accelerate the adoption of 5G in the country.

5G Wholesale Framework a Big Win for Consumers?


Despite recent announcements in May 2023 that Malaysia will adopt a dual infrastructure-based 5G carrier model (see IN-6948), 5G rollout appears to be progressing smoothly for the first network operated by state-run 5G entity, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). According to Deputy Communications and Digital Minister Teo Nie Ching’s speech at Nokia's "Amplify Malaysia" event in August 2023, the country is on target to reach 80% 5G network coverage in populated areas by the end of 2023. Additionally, with Maxis agreeing to join the state-run network in July 2023, all six major mobile operators in the country now have access to 5G services.

With all mobile operators currently using DNB’s 5G network and avoiding costly upfront Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) for 5G network rollouts, prices for 5G mobile plans have been kept relatively low for consumers. Yes (launched under YTL Communications) offers a 100GB 5G/4G postpaid plan for US$7.50/month, while unlimited 5G/4G data plans range from US$12/month to US$38/month. Maxis offers a range of 5G postpaid plans, with 5G data packages ranging from 120GB to 180GB at a cost of US$17/month and US$ 30/month respectively. The oldest telecommunications company in Malaysia, CelcomDigi (a merger between Celcom and Digi), also offers free access to 5G networks with its MEGA 98, 128, 158, and 188 9plans.

How to Stay Ahead in a Highly Competitive Environment


As covered in an earlier ABI Insight (IN-6744), a wholesale network approach diverges from competition on coverage among Communication Service Providers (CSPs) and shifts toward service-based competition, such as offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) or cloud-based services tailored to predictive maintenance, or Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) gaming and security. This intent has appeared to come to fruition, with CelcomDigi bundling in VR and cloud gaming content into their MEGA postpaid plans. However, more can be done to drive 5G adoption in the country.

Some initiatives employed by CSPs in other countries include collaborating and building on existing innovative solutions. For example, South Korean CSP SK Telecom and Singaporean CSP Singtel worked together to bring the latter’s successful metaverse platform, ifland, to the Singapore market. Such collaborations help to accelerate the time-to-market for innovative and proven 5G innovations.

Other initiatives also include collaborations between CSPs and popular content platforms to bring about new immersive experiences for consumers. For example, in May 2020, Japanese CSP KDDI Corporation partnered with Netflix and the Shibuya ward of Tokyo to launch ‘Virtual Shibuya’, a virtual/digital replica of the ward, with the aim of demonstrating the capability of 5G technology. On this virtual platform—accessible via Virtual Reality (VR) devices, smartphones, and computers—users (avatars) can interact with other users and attend various talk shows, music concerts and events, with ‘Virtual Shibuya Halloween’ being one of the highest profile events held on this platform. The project has since extended to other wards with ‘Virtual Harajuku’, which was launched in May 2021.

With a current low 5G penetration rate, Malaysian CSPs need to quickly seize the opportunity to build strong and unique 5G propositions to capture market share. To achieve this, establishing strong partnerships with other industry players should form a key component of business strategies.