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Due to 5G delays, Malaysia’s average mobile speed now lags behind Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines

Soya Cincau logo Soya Cincau 17/2/2022 Alexander Wong

Opensignal has published a report which highlights the impact of 5G on the global mobile network experience. Focusing on 100 markets, it is clear that countries with early deployments have leapfrogged other established markets which previously had better 4G mobile experience.

In Southeast Asia, Malaysia used to have higher average mobile download speeds compared to other countries in the region but that’s no longer the case by the end of 2021. With the introduction of 5G, countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, have overtaken Malaysia in average download speeds.

Opensignal’s report states, “The experience for mobile users in these countries (Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines) lagged Malaysia as recently as 2019, but have enjoyed substantial improvements over the past two and a half years (partly due to the preparation and introduction of 5G), whereas the download experience of Malaysian users has improved only sluggishly in the same period according to the data collected by Opensignal.”

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In Q1 2019, Malaysia used to have an average of 11.5Mbps and it has increased slightly to 13.5Mbps in Q4 2021. Within the same period, Indonesia has jumped from 6.9Mbps to 14.4Mbps, while the Philippines almost doubled from 8.0Mbps to 15.1Mbps. Meanwhile, in Thailand, their average mobile speeds used to be half of Malaysia’s at 5.7Mbps and they have jumped to 17.4Mbps after the deployment of 5G.

Singapore is still leading in the region at 49.9Mbps while Vietnam comes second at 25.5Mbps. Interestingly, Singapore has dropped in ranking from 5th place in early 2019 to 9th place in late 2021. According to Opensignal, this is due to shortage of wireless spectrum capacity for 5G in the island republic.

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Globally, South Korea ranks on top with an average download speed of 129.7Mbps. This is followed by Norway at 78.1Mbps and Netherlands at 76.5Mbps.

Opensignal finds that countries that have launched 5G with significant adoption have experienced improvements in Games Experience. However, they have also noted improvements in markets without significant 5G influence such as Malaysia which scored 61.9 out of 100, with a rank of 43 across 100 global markets in Q1 2021.

While 5G uses spectrum more efficiently than 4G, not all deployments guarantee a better experience. According to Opensignal, for the previous transition from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G, operators just need to deploy the new generation on the existing spectrum to see an uplift in the amount of data and speed they could transmit. For 5G, there’s very little uplift when they use the same 4G spectrum for 5G. The biggest jump in performance can be seen if 5G is deployed using the higher 3-6GHz spectrum range which offers higher bandwidth capacity to deliver gigabit speed.

Deployment for 5G not only benefits users with 5G devices but also 4G users as well. Most telcos would improve connectivity between their mobile sites and their core network, which is often shared for both 4G and 5G. With more fiberised mobile sites, 4G users should also see significant improvements in their experience. You can read the full report here.

In Malaysia, Yes is currently the only telco to offer 5G services with Digital Nasional Berhad’s (DNB) network. TM has also agreed to participate in DNB’s 5G user trial but they have not provided any dates for its 5G service availability. At the moment, the 5G coverage is still rather spotty with limited coverage in Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya and Putrajaya. To make matters worse, all Samsung and iPhone devices can’t connect to the 5G network just yet and mostly Chinese-branded phones are supported.

As mentioned that Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, Malaysia is still reconsidering DNB’s single wholesale network model. Reuters has reported that the big four telcos – Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile, are proposing to form another 5G network operated by a consortium of operators which will run in parallel with DNB. It added that the dual network approach will speed up initial deployment and provide Malaysia with the security of dual competing networks.

Malaysia was supposed to be leading the 5G race in ASEAN with a target to deploy commercial 5G services by Q3 2020. After the change of administration, the 5G plans were put on hold. At one point, the former Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said 5G deployment will only take place towards the end of 2022 or early 2023. Talks about 5G were only put back on the table when the former Prime Minister launched MyDigital in February 2021 with the target to rollout by Q4 2021 via a single government entity, which is now known as DNB.

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