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DNB to focus on cost recovery: Ralph Marshall

Chief executive asserts that 5G capacity will be accessible to all telcos

10 November 2021

DNB to focus on cost recovery: Ralph Marshall

This article appeared in The Vibes on 10 November 2021.

KUALA LUMPUR – Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB), which has been tasked with the country’s 5G roll-out, will be focusing its efforts based on a cost-recovery model that will be accessible to all, assured its chief executive Augustus Ralph Marshall.

“The deployment of the single wholesale network (SWN) will enable DNB to offer 5G capacity to all telcos and other licensees rapidly and at lower cost, benefiting from economies of scale,” Marshall told The Vibes in a recent interview.

This was echoed by DNB’s chief commercial officer Ahmad Taufek Omar.

“This will result in the accelerated availability of high quality and attractively priced mobile broadband services to satisfy the rapidly growing demand by the rakyat and enterprises,” Taufek said.

The SWN’s deployment had been criticised by various parties due to its monopolistic nature as mobile network operators were compelled to use the Finance Ministry-owned DNB infrastructure to deploy 5G.

DNB however refuted this.

Digital Nasional Bhd chief commercial officer Ahmad Taufek Omar says that through the single wholesale network model, all licensees, particularly telcos, should benefit from the enhanced free cash flow that will arise from the prospective savings in annual capital expenditure that can now be invested in innovation, and also be available for distribution as dividends to their shareholders. – ALIF OMAR/The Vibes pic, November 10, 2021Digital Nasional Bhd chief commercial officer Ahmad Taufek Omar says that through the single wholesale network model, all licensees, particularly telcos, should benefit from the enhanced free cash flow that will arise from the prospective savings in annual capital expenditure that can now be invested in innovation, and also be available for distribution as dividends to their shareholders. – ALIF OMAR/The Vibes pic, November 10, 2021

“We are not a monopoly. The government has established DNB as a single neutral party to accelerate the deployment and adoption of 5G connectivity, to complement the efforts of mobile network operators to provide faster, better, and cheaper services.

“Our principal objective is to catalyse digital transformation, for the benefit of the rakyat and enterprises, consistent with the government’s digital economy blueprint,” said Marshall.

Opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan had asserted that Malaysia could have raised up to RM12 billion if a spectrum auction was conducted.

But DNB asserted that a spectrum auction had never been done in the country before and there was no basis as to how this amount was derived.

Instead, it said, the cost to deploy 5G is far cheaper and compares favourably against cost estimates in the MyDigital Blueprint and the National 5G Task Force Report prepared by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in December 2019.

MCMC’s report found that the incremental cost to update a single 4G network to 5G would cost about RM7.5 billion. The agency’s taskforce went on to estimate that the deployment of 5G collectively by the four major mobile network operators would cost more than RM30 billion.

Through DNB’s SWN model, Taufek said, “all licensees, particularly telcos, should benefit from the enhanced free cash flow that will arise from the prospective savings in annual capital expenditure that can now be invested in innovation, and also be available for distribution as dividends to their shareholders”.

Taufek has been leading extensive discussions with the mobile operators.

Digital Nasional Bhd chief operating officer Dushyan Vaithiyanathan says DNB will continue to use existing fibre, towers, and service providers to put its equipment on existing infrastructure. – ALIF OMAR/The Vibes pic, November 10, 2021Digital Nasional Bhd chief operating officer Dushyan Vaithiyanathan says DNB will continue to use existing fibre, towers, and service providers to put its equipment on existing infrastructure. – ALIF OMAR/The Vibes pic, November 10, 2021

Some of the pledges that DNB intends to fulfil regarding transparency include publishing its reference access offer on its website. This document will include information about pricing, among others.

In the works are discussions between DNB and MCMC to mandate all access-seekers or companies that tap into the former’s network to agree to a complete passthrough of speed.

DNB intends on delivering 100Mbps speed at cell edge, which would provide users at the weakest point of coverage at least 100 Mbps.

It plans to integrate its network into the telcos’ core, as well as build a fit-for-purpose framework where companies either opt for standalone (SA) or non-standalone (NSA) deployment of their services.

SA means a purely 5G experience, while NSA sees users having close to 5G speeds. Telco companies can opt to choose between one or the other for their customers.

“Everything is to drive the penetration and adoption of 5G as quickly as possible,” said DNB chief operating officer Dushyan Vaithiyanathan.

“We have also made it a commitment that everything we do will be based on the existing ecosystem and infrastructure. We will continue to use existing fibre, towers, and service providers to put our equipment on the existing infrastructure. This allows us to roll out at speed and lowers the cost, which we hope will be passed on to consumers”.

DNB is targeting to meet 80% of the population by 2024 and is estimating the total cost of the 5G rollout will be around RM16.5 billion.

It also asserted that it will not be relying on government guarantees, with the entire cost of deploying the network to be borne by the private sector. – The Vibes, November 10, 2021

Additional reporting by Emmanuel Samarathisa

DNB Newsroom

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