Govt will step in if MNOs fail to reach 5G stake deal

29 Nov 2023 - The Star

PETALING JAYA: In what seems to be a warning to mobile network operators (MNOs), Fahmi Fadzil remarked that the government will step in to finalise the ownership of the dual 5G network operators if the MNOs fail to reach an agreement.

The Communications and Digital Minister made the comment as the government’s efforts to complete the equity sale of Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) – the first phase of the dual 5G network – continues to suffer multiple delays.

The government has previously announced that a second 5G network operator would be formed, known as Entity B, once the coverage of populated areas reaches 80%.

Fahmi said on Nov 7 that Malaysia’s 5G network coverage has hit 73% of populated areas.

It is noteworthy that the existing 5G network run by Digital Nasional Bhd (DNB) will continue operating after migration to the dual network model.

“It’s either the MNOs come to a mutual agreement as to which MNO will be in which entity, or the final decision will be made by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission,” Fahmi said yesterday.

Fahmi spoke to reporters after the launch of the Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) Innovative Hub.

Updating on the share sale agreement (SSA) between the MNOs and DNB, Fahmi said “one or two details” will be finalised on Nov 28.

However, the minister did not commit to a date for the signing of the SSA and only said the agreement will be inked “very soon”.

Fahmi reportedly said on Nov 17 that the DNB SSA was to be signed by the MNOs within a week. However, the one-week target has since passed.

On another note, Fahmi said artificial intelligence (AI) would help Malaysian companies address rising cybersecurity challenges.

“Although we lack manpower in terms of cybersecurity experts in Malaysia, there are several ways we can implement to immediately improve cybersecurity in our organisations,” he said.

The minister highlighted that several private entities have already benefited from the use of AI for cybersecurity, including in setting up a firewall.

“There are already off-the-shelf solutions provided by various companies and I believe this will help reduce the dependence on field experts,” he added.

Nevertheless, he highlighted the necessity of experts and the need of a chief information security officer position within a company to manage and coordinate aspects of cybersecurity.

Fahmi said the government would not mandate it upon companies to have their own cybersecurity experts and it is up for them to decide.

The government aims to have at least 25,000 cybersecurity professionals by 2025. However, there is only an estimated 13,000 workers in the market currently.

Fahmi said universities in Malaysia, be it public or private, still have small numbers of students within a cohort or class to create future cybersecurity experts.

He said the government welcomes the cooperation of the private sector together with the public sector to focus on this field.

He added that the government continues to double its effort to attract more high-value foreign and domestic direct investments in digital areas, particularly in AI.

“Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services announced an investment of RM25.5bil in Malaysia by 2037.

“This is a very large international technology investment and is needed to drive the MyDigital initiative as well as to achieve Malaysia’s goal of becoming a high-income nation by 2030,” he said.

Fahmi pointed out that the government is also studying the possibility of cooperation between government-linked companies, government-linked investment companies and academicians.

“This advantage should be utilised best in the form of a synergy or smart partnership to further boost achievements and national success,” he added.


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