Thursday, June 04, 2020

5G: Why Singapore is concerned with Syed Mokhtar's Altel

Kuala Lumpur, 4 June: I'm not as big a fan of Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary as I used to be. The years have made me wiser, I suppose, or just that little harder to impress. But it would seem that across the Causeway, the Straits Times is even less enamoured by this richest Malaysian Melayu.

In its latest swipe at Syed Mokhtar, Malaysia hands 5G spectrum to little-known firm controlled by politically-linked tycoon, the Singapore government's mouthpiece reports: 

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has quietly awarded the highly sought-after 5G telecommunications spectrum to several players, including the little-known Altel, a firm controlled by the reclusive but politically connected tycoon Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary, seemingly without an open tender previously promised. 
The May 15 decision, signed off by Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, went unannounced to the public and appears to be the first major reversal of infrastructure policy by the three-month-old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government. 
Prior to being ousted in February, the Pakatan Harapan administration had promised an open tender to allocate the spectrum - reserved frequencies to avoid interference of transmission - but encouraged industry players to form a consortium that would avoid duplication of heavy expenses in rolling out infrastructure for the next generation broadband service. 

But given that Singapore has always more than seemingly had more than a fleeting interest in Malaysia's telco industry (one of our telco players gunning for 5G domination is, in fact, partly owned by Singapore) one can't help but wonder if the editorial wasn't driven under the influence, so to speak. 
Now, is Altel the best choice to lead Malaysia's 5G push? 
In January, I wrote 5G's "single entity': Who will own it ultimately? but I'm certainly not the guy to ask if this company is more qualified than that company. My only concern is that this all doesn't turn into a monopoly. That's the last thing we need and new Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah will do well to reassure us that under his watch nobody - Syed Mokhtar included (or, rather, especially) - will own another monopoly yet again. And that we the people will get the best deal at the end of the day.
But to be fair to Syed Mokhtar's Altel, it has invested over RM1 billion of its own money as part of a loss-making concession to deploy digital TV infrastructure in Malaysia. As a result, 700MHz spectrum is freed from analog TV to he used for mobile amd wireless broadband.
In addition, the government is expected to earn some RM4 billion from the spectrum when allocated to telcos. Needless to say, it's a heathy sum that can be re-invested into better broadband infrastructure, especially for rural areas. And if the expected "marriage" between TM and Altel happens, that should be another plus for businesses and consumers in the country.
Three of our telcos - TM, Maxis and Celcom - are 5G-ready and a fourth - DiGi - will be, soon. All of them have invested huge sums and it is important that they get equitable share of  the 5G pie so that they can justify future investments in the industry in Malaysia.
The same goes to that Singapore-owned Malaysian telco, if it can step up its game quickly.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:01 pm

    Whats the fuvk of Singapore.... this Centre Of Slander of Malaysia... why Singapork is soo annoying...!? Beware DAP is boy of fucking Singapork. Fuck Songapore... fuck Lee Kwan Yew super crony family... Long Live young brave heart Amos Yee...