The Malaysian government says they are prepared to sell up to a 70% stake in the state-owned 5G agency, Digital Nasional Berhad (NDB)

After many years of infighting, Malaysia’s government and mobile operators may finally have reached a compromise when it comes to 5G.

Last week, the government announced that it would offer up to a 70% stake in national 5G vehicle, NDB, hoping to appeal to the operators that have fought against the agency’s creation for many months. 

All four of Malaysia’s mobile operators – Celcom, DiGi, Maxis, and U-Mobile – have indicated they are pleased with the suggested solution, saying in a joint statement that they “look forward to an approach that is typical of any major mergers and acquisitions process”.

Contentions around Malaysian 5G began back in 2020, when the government announced they would not auction 5G spectrum to the nation’s mobile operators but would instead set up NDB to build a national wholesale 5G network. According to the government, this would allow for a faster and more efficient network build, removing the network overbuild inherent in a competitive telecoms market.

The Malaysian operators, however, decried the idea as akin to setting up a national monopoly on 5G, arguing against the high price of access to the network and saying they could rollout the 5G networks more cost-effectively themselves.  

Ericsson won the $2.7 billion contract to build DNB’s network.

But by November last year, just one month before DNB was set to begin offering access to its 5G networks, none of the country’s four mobile operators had signed up to its services. As a result, in December DNB said it will offer wholesale 5G services to the operators for free during its initial rollout phase, scheduled to last until March 31.

With this deadline fast approaching, DNB said last week that it will extend this period of free access to June 30.


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