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Are we really ready for 5G in Malaysia?
November 27, 2019 Blog


The race for 5G is over, with China already focusing on 6G. But the true value and use cases from 5G is still not fully defined. What we have now is mostly projections of what 5G can do once fully implemented.

According to the November 2019 edition of the Ericson Mobility Report, 5G is expected to cover up to 65% of the world’s population by the end of 2025 and handle 45% of global mobile data traffic. The report also highlighted smartphone users to consume a global average of 24 GB per month in 2025 from 7.2 GB currently, as video usage increases and new services become available. Also, the total number of cellular IoT connections is estimated at five billion by the end of 2025, from 1.3 billion by the end of 2019.

With 5G services expected sometime next year in Malaysia, many organisations and consumers are looking towards its implementation. The main reason they want 5G is because of its promise of seamless connectivity. For businesses, the manufacturing industry is expected to make the most out of 5G as it allows IoT devices and automation to work and communicate data at a much faster pace with lower latency issues.

On the other hand, the public is also looking forward to 5G simply because they believe it will increase their download speeds, especially with on their devices. For them, being able to watch movies and play games seamlessly on their devices is what matters most.

According to a recent study by A.T Kearney, commissioned by Cisco, the rollout of 5G services will see Malaysian telecom operators boost annual revenues by as much as RM3.764 billion starting 2025. The potential of 5G seems to be substantial as it promises up to 50 times faster speeds, ten times more responsiveness and requires much lower power connectivity than 4G.

What’s interesting about this is how telco operators are going to handle the implementation of 5G. Malaysian telco giants Maxis and Celcom recently agreed to explore a potential partnership for efficient deployment of Malaysia’s 5G infrastructure. The collaboration is expected to enable both telcos to explore possible business opportunities in relation to 5G key strategic areas to deliver the best 5G innovation to benefit the people and businesses in Malaysia as soon as the necessary spectrum is made available.

With Maxis and Celcom planning to work together on 5G infrastructure, what about the other players?

Apart from mobile coverage, Digi is working with MDEC to help entrepreneurs, startups and developers to conduct trials in the 5G OpenLab to better understand and verify the technical requirements needed for the deployment of 5G in Malaysia. Digi and MDEC hope to see 5G use cases related to the areas of smart cities, smart mobility, smart healthcare and creative digital content. Through the data collected, learnings can be applied to narrow down and identify which use cases will be relevant for the growth of 5G in Malaysia. According to reports, U Mobile has partnered with Huawei for the development of 5G services on the local market with planned 5G services launch in 2020.

Telekom Malaysia (TM) and Huawei have also recently agreed to cooperate on 5G services commercialisation in Malaysia with TM, which prides itself as National 5G Infrastructure provider, is exploring a working mechanism covering spectrum, business case, ecosystem and key 5G technologies. TM was also reported to be working with VMware on its 5G ecosystems

YES by YTL Communications, a global front runner in the 4G mobile network and the first nationwide converged 4G service however has not made any major announcements on 5G for now.

Despite the numerous telco service providers in the country racing to offer the best 5G services, there are still many network connectivity issues that need to be addressed before they can really consider going all out on 5G.


Addressing Concerns

According to a report on the urban vs rural mobile connectivity gap in Malaysia, Opensignal, an independent global standard for measuring real-world mobile network experience, found that while users in the most densely populated districts could connect to 4G networks 83.7% of the time, users in the most sparsely populated districts spent just 44% of their time on 4G networks.

Until 5G networks are rolled out, 4G remains the optimal connectivity option for users due to faster speeds and better performance, but many users can still access the internet through 2G and 3G networks.

When Opensignal examined the time users spent connected to all mobile data networks (3G and 4G services combined), the gap between urban and rural areas diminished. However, 3G/4G Availability still dropped at least 25% points, from 97.6% in the most densely populated areas to 72.9% in the most sparsely populated districts.

The National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan launched by the government is expected to address this. Hopefully, the digital divide can be addressed once 5G is implemented. In fact, in some countries we already see examples of how 5G can be used to boost connectivity.


Beyond Commercial Use Cases

5G is expected to bring more value for businesses, especially the manufacturing industry. While general use cases such as improving internet speeds for consumer use cases like streaming and gaming remain a priority, the real value it’s predicted in deriving data from devices.

Businesses will be looking to capitalise on network slicing and edge computing and set up private networks to get their needs met as fast as possible. Autonomous devices such as self-driving vehicles, autonomous drones, autonomous machines in manufacturing and smart devices in data-driven industries rely on precise data to be able to function efficiently. Looking at the example of self-driving vehicles, data sent and received from the vehicle need the lowest latency as any latency issue could result in incidences.

In embracing IR4.0, 5G promises improvements in speed, latency, and capacity meaning better competitiveness through improvements to robotics, manufacturing controls, and warehouse automation. These include cutting cables and increasing flexibility, lowering lead times, and cutting reconfiguration costs up.

5G also 5G allows for data collection and actionable analysis in real-time from IoT and other sources for Edge computing by opening up new areas of potential data monetisation, cognitive analytics, and predictive maintenance.



For now, there is no exact data on when or who will be the first to offer 5G services commercially in Malaysia. Both the public and businesses are eager to make the most of these services. But when technology is new, its best to conduct all testing to ensure the services will be reliable upon release. It is also important that the concerns surrounding 5G are fully addressed. The last thing needed is latency issues upon the launch of 5G services.

While we don’t know how much the service will cost, there is definitely a strong demand for it.