Malaysia’s decision to set up a single wholesale network (SWN) for 5G — owned by Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), a special-purpose vehicle under the Ministry of Finance — has certainly caught many by surprise, not least because it is a complete deviation from what has been done before. For every generation of mobile networks in the country thus far, spectrums were allocated to the telcos, the mobile network operators (MNO) that go on to build their own (parallel) infrastructures. As with anything new, criticisms and pushback — in this case, primarily from telcos — are not unexpected.

We recently read an analysis on Malaysia’s decision on an SWN by DT Economics (a consultancy commissioned by GSM Association) entitled “Safeguarding the road to 5G in Malaysia”. According to GSMA’s website, “GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors”. Thus, it is no surprise that the findings of the DT Economics report reflect views very similar to those of the telcos.

The report flags the risks of an SWN, including creating a monopoly in DNB and possibly less competition downstream (telcos). The former is certainly true, though we cannot see why competition among telcos will decrease. To be sure, how they compete for customers will certainly change. We will elaborate on this a little later.

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