The Malaysian Government has announced a National Digital Infrastructure Plan (JENDELA) that will put an end to 3G networks in Malaysia and prepare the country for its transition to 5G.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin stated the decision to eliminate 3G networks is to “strengthen the coverage of 4G networks [in Malaysia], as well as establishing a solid foundation for 5G”. This will be completed stage-by-stage until the end of 2021.
The Malaysian Government has currently rolled out phase one of JENDELA. Goals to be achieved under phase one include expanding 4G broadband coverage from 91.8% to 96.9% in populated areas, and increasing broadband speed from 25Mbps to 35Mbps.
Phase two of JENDELA will focus on the East Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak, where internet coverage is significantly lower than states in West Malaysia. Under the plan, Sabah and Sarawak will be the biggest beneficiaries: existing communication towers will be upgraded and hundreds of new communication transmitters will be installed.
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s announcement, Communications and Multimedia Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, unveiled an Industrial Revolution 4.0 digital road map outlining the details of phase two. Said road map is scheduled to be released in mid-September.
However, a report by research firm CGS-CIMB revealed that 5G in Malaysia is expected to be deferred to 2022 due to ‘existing uncertainties in terms of how and over what timeframe [phase two] is to be achieved’ as well as the need to prioritise optimising speed and coverage of 4G networks.
Despite the delay, this marks the beginning of an exciting turn for Malaysia’s digital economy. Malaysia’s promise to switch off 3G and welcome 5G indicates a strong commitment to assist Malaysians in overcoming the demands of working from home in the midst of a pandemic.
The rise of 5G in Malaysia could also mean a boom in cloud services, as applications may be more accessible by users across the country, which is only more good news to the country’s fast-growing digital economy.
5G may also enable more edge data center technologies by bringing lower latency, higher reliability and faster data processing that is closer to the user. This is particularly important, as Malaysia looks to be moving closer to the edge, with new projects announced by Bitglass, GDC and Vertiv this year.
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