Comms minister and government spokesman Fahmi Fadzil was cited by the Bernama news agency as saying that the decision adopted by the 5G Task Force will then be forwarded to the cabinet.

“The government will not take long to consider and make an announcement of a shift from a single to dual 5G network coverage,” he said. “After that the dual 5G can be implemented if the terms agreed by the task force are achieved.”

The meeting will be chaired by the heads of the treasury and comms ministry, and attended by representatives from the country’s telcos, including wholesale 5G operator, Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB)

Fahmi confirmed last May that Malaysia would deploy a second wholesale 5G network to compete with the first.

His boss, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, opposed the controversial creation of a state-owned monopoly telecoms network while he was in opposition – questioning the government’s decision to award the contract entirely to Ericsson. The country’s telcos weren’t exactly fans of the idea either, on grounds they wouldn’t have much in the way of bargaining power when it came to negotiating prices.

After coming to power, Ibrahim ordered a review of the tender process and set about creating a competing wholesaler.

He caused a stir last October when he attended Huawei’s Malaysia ICT Summit in Kuala Lumpur, during which he suggested that the Chinese vendor – which is banned from supplying 5G kit in most Western markets – might be in the running for his country’s new network.

This was in spite of warnings issued to the Malaysian government from the US and EU not to permit the use of Huawei’s 5G network equipment.

Whatever course the task force charts, it is likely to be heavily scrutinised for any sign that it will open the door to Huawei.

Meanwhile, DNB seems to be doing exactly what it was set up to do.

In that same Bernama article, Fahmi said DNB’s 5G network covered 80.2 percent of the population by the end of December, slightly ahead of its target of 80 percent. At the end of October, there were 3.6 million subscribers connected to the network, representing an adoption rate of 10.8 percent.

That same month, DNB announced that the country’s five MNOs executed their share subscription agreements (SSA), under which they will each take a 14 percent stake in the company. The government will retain a 30 percent stake plus a golden share.

The agreement will see each operator plough 233 million ringgits ($50 million) into DNB, contributing to its funding requirements.

Settling the issue of ownership not only resolves one of the biggest objections that the telcos had to the formation of DNB, it has also allowed the 5G Task Force to get on with its work on wholesaler number two.

Whatever plan the task force cooks up for the second network operator, Fahmi and Anwar will hope it gets a better reception than the first.

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