Celcom invests in 5G, even as Malaysia refocuses efforts on LTE improvement

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Celcom CEO: Malaysia needs to ‘improve its 4G foundation’

Malaysian mobile operator Celcom Axiata is working with Italian network provider SIAE Microelettronica to implement integrated IP/MPLS services across its wireless backhaul network. The L3 microwave radio AGS20, provided by the Italian company, will be used enhance current LTE performance, as well as on the operator’s future 5G services.

The pair worked together in July 2019 to deploy what Celcom’s claimed to be the first 10 Gbps millimeter wave radio in the country, ALFOplus80HDX, in a 5G live trial that served 4500 users.

In addition, the operator commented that its network is prepared “for seamless migration to Software Defined Network (SDN),” which will make the introduction of applications and operations simpler, while also maximizing network up-time and minimizing traffic.

Last week, Celcom’s CEO Mohamad Idham Nawawi told The Edge Markets that due to the limited availability of 5G-enabled devices, it is not yet the time to commercialize the technology in Malaysia.

He went on to estimate that sometime in the second half of 2021 would be a more fitting time for Malaysia to launch 5G.

Nawawi’s perspective is reasonable, because while Malaysia initially planned to begin the roll out of 5G in Q3 2020, with 5G spectrum originally intended to be assigned through a consortium with bidding to start sometime in Q1 2020, everything was put on hold following a change of administration. The current government plan is now one that focuses on strengthening current 4G services and expanding fiber broadband access with the JENDELA plan, announced this past August.

JENDELA, which will run from 2021 to 2025, has three main goals: Expand 4G mobile broadband coverage from 91.8% to 96.9% in populated areas; increase fixed broadband speeds from 25Mbps to 35Mbps; and enable 7.5 million premises with gigabit fixed broadband access.

Further, some back and forth regarding the spectrum bidding process, or lack thereof, also set the launch timeline back.

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