The government has awarded the Swedish vendor a $2.6 billion contract to supply and deploy the newly formed Digital Nasional with 5G equipment

Malaysia’s approach to 5G in 2021 has been something quite unusual. The government, led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, announced back in March that it would go against the norm when it comes to tendering 5G contracts, instead creating Digital Nasional Berhad (DSB), a special purpose vehicle specifically designed to own and oversee a national 5G network. 

DSB will serve as a national 5G wholesaler, providing all the nation’s mobile network operators with fair and equal access to the 5G network. The government argues that this approach to 5G will leave the nation’s telcos able to focus on their quality of service and various connectivity offerings, as well as continuing to roll out their own 4G infrastructure.  

Back in April, Malaysian media was reporting that DSB had invited eight vendors to potentially take part in the $2.6 billion 5G network build: Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE, Cisco, NEC, Nokia, Samsung, and FiberHome.

Today, the winner has been revealed as Sweden’s Ericsson, who has undertaken to arrange financing for the supply, delivery, and management of the entire network.  

“Ericsson will undertake the design and development of the end-to-end 5G network comprising core, radio access and transport network (RAN), operation and business support systems (OSS/BSS) and managed services,” said DNB in a statement. “Ericsson will also undertake capacity building and innovation programmes to support local vendor development and participation, as well as to boost 5G adoption amongst the public. This is in addition to developing use cases to accelerate industry participation.”

DNB hopes to launch its 5G network commercially before the end of 2021 in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Cyberjaya, aiming to cover 80% of the Malaysian population by 2024.

This news will likely come as something of a blow to Huawei, who were considered by many to be a favourite to win the contract. Malaysia has generally shown itself to be a favourable market for the Chinese vendor, in spite of US pressure related to cybersecurity. In fact, back in February, Malaysia partnered with Huawei to develop a cybersecurity lab.

Ericsson, however, also has a great pedigree when it comes to Malaysia, having participated in the country’s telecoms industry since 1965. Now, the company looks forward to helping the Southeast Asian country to accelerate digitally and begin rolling out new 5G solutions.

“As a platform for innovation, 5G will also enable Malaysian entrepreneurs to create future applications for the benefit of consumers and businesses in the country. To this end, we will collaborate with DNB on a 5G Experience and Innovation Lab, to fast track the adoption of 5G use cases,” Ericsson President and CEO Borje Ekholm said. 


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