Malaysia Telecoms Market Report

Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 21 Feb 2022 Update History

Report Pages: 133

Analyst: Sebastien De Rosbo

Malaysia’s overcrowded mobile market to be further rationalised with merger of Digi and Celcom

As part of a diverse range of initiatives designed to move the country from developing to developed status by 2025, Malaysia has enabled and encouraged open competition in its telecommunications market. The result is very high penetration levels in both the mobile (147%) and mobile broadband (127%) segments, and near-universal coverage of 4G LTE networks. The incumbent landline operator Telekom Malaysia retains an almost monopolistic hold on the fixed-line market as well as a significant lead in fixed broadband. But even here, steady growth is occurring as more fibre optic cable networks are being deployed around the country on top of Telekom Malaysia’s national backbone.

Consumers are the main beneficiaries of the highly competitive market. They enjoy widespread access to high-speed mobile services as well as attractive offers on bundles to keep data use up but prices low. The downside is that most of Malaysia’s MNOs and MVNOs have struggled to increase revenue in line with growth in subscriber numbers as well as demand for broadband data. While the operators have been very successful in moving a significant proportion (now over 30%) of customers from prepaid over to higher-value postpaid accounts, ARPU continues to fall year after year as a result of competitive pricing pressures. The mobile market, in particular, has become overcrowded and the government is keen to see further rationalisation and consolidation amongst the operators. To that end, two of the country’s four MNOs – Digi and Celcom – announced plans in November 2021 to merge their Malaysian operations. While customers will no doubt continue to enjoy high quality services at competitive rates, the new entity (to be called Celcom Digi) will be hopeful of squeezing better margins through improved economies of scale.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on the government’s next move to encourage the private mobile operators to sign up to the country’s wholesale 5G network being built by Ericsson for the government-owned and operated Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). This special-purpose vehicle company was established by the Ministry of Finance to undertake the development and deployment of Malaysia’s 5G infrastructure across the country. The government’s stated intent was to avoid duplication of networks and infrastructure, and thus reduce investment costs for the operators. But with DNB being Malaysia’s single wholesale 5G network provider, the MNOs have been reluctant to commit due to having limited opportunity to differentiate their 5G services and being somewhat at the mercy of the wholesaler’s pricing. To date, no MNO has agreed to the deal and are instead demanding the development of a dual wholesale network model (one that no doubt offers more flexible terms, at least in the eyes of the MNOs). Malaysia’s 5G rollout has, in effect, come to a standstill while the government tries to find a way to restart negotiations.

This report includes the regulator's market data to September 2021, telcos' financial and operating data updates to September 2021, Telecom Maturity Index charts and analyses, assessment of the global impact of Covid-19 on the telecoms sector, and other recent market developments.

Key Developments

  • Malaysia’s MNOs hold off signing up to the government’s wholesale 5G network model.
  • Digi and Celcom announce plans to merge their Malaysian mobile operations.
  • The Malaysian government backtracks on its 5G spectrum allocation to Altel, agreeing to revert to an open tender.
  • Malaysia’s 3G networks are shut down on December 31, 2021, with the spectrum to be reallocated to 4G use.

Key companies mentioned in this report:

Telekom Malaysia, TIME dotCom, Maxis Communications, Celcom Axiata, Digi, U Mobile, Altel.

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