KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — DAP’s Ong Kian Ming has today suggested that any award of a second 5G network must be done via open tender and take into account the public interest.
After Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s announcement of such a plan, Ong said a second network must also be reviewed to ascertain any impact on the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
“We should be keenly aware of the geopolitics surrounding the 5G issue, but we should make decisions firmly based on our own national interest,” the former deputy international trade and industry minister said in a statement.
This comes after Anwar said last month that the introduction of a second 5G network would allow more effective participation by China’s digital giant Huawei with a provision of both “Western and Eastern technology”.
Ong said the remark surprised him as Anwar had advocated the principles of openness and transparency via his Madani vision, pointing to how the prime minister had ordered an investigation into the way the current 5G network contract was awarded to Ericsson via Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB).
“It would be a disservice to the Madani way of governing if the second 5G network was awarded in a manner where only one bidder was involved,” said Ong.
He also said that the need for a second 5G network has not been firmly established, since DNB “seems to have done a good job” in rolling out coverage and has been ranked with one of the fastest 5G speeds by independent watchdog Opensignal.
Despite the relatively small number of 5G users already in the nation contributing to this, Ong said it was undeniable that DNB’s single wholesale network model succeeded in quickly extending 5G coverage and achieving speeds that are significantly faster than 4G, especially when compared to other countries.
Hence, he further questioned the need for a second 5G network when the speed and coverage of the current 5G network are more than enough.
“If both speed and coverage of the existing 5G network are more than sufficient, is there a need then for a second network?” he asked.
Ong also pointed to how the shareholding structure of DNB by the mobile network operators (MNOs) has not yet been signed, warning that should DNB be “killed off” then the MOF will be left holding the debt of DNB without having the major telcos paying their share of 5G access fees which will be used to service DNB’s debt.
“This would lead to the experience of ‘socialization of losses’ and ‘privatisation of profits’ which Malaysia has seen many times in past administrations which I’m sure Prime Minister Anwar would been keen to avoid, especially since it will be his ministry, MOF, which will end up holding the bad debts,” he added.
Last week, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said a decision will be made about the country’s second network provider after state-owned DNB by the middle of this month.
He added that discussions with MNO involving a task force comprising not just his ministry officials, but also the chief secretary to the government and the Treasury secretary-general, are currently ongoing.