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Telekom Malaysia and Cisco partner on 5G-as-a-service

Malaysia has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to 5G, but incumbent Telekom Malaysia (TM) has struck a deal that could help it recover some lost ground.

Its B2B arm TM One signed two collaboration agreements with Cisco late last week that aim to accelerate 5G use case development and digital transformation among SMEs.

First up is the 5G-as-a-service (5GaaS) Innovation Platform, under which TM and Cisco will open a centre of excellence that will foster the development and testing of 5G proof-of-concepts (PoCs) for various industry verticals. Supported by Cisco’s private core networking products, it will serve to demonstrate what enterprises can achieve by implementing 5G.

The other partnership, Accelerating Digital Transformation of SMEs, will see TM and Cisco co-develop PoCs for IoT applications and business analytics solutions for companies in the retail, education and manufacturing sectors. Successful deployments will be used as showcases in an effort to stimulate broader adoption among SMEs. Cisco will also offer mentoring opportunities, host hackathons, launch a digital talent initiative, and offer training on its Meraki cloud-based networking environment to help developers get up and running more quickly.

The partnerships fall under the auspices of Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme, which leverages digital technology and public-private partnerships to solve national challenges in sectors like infrastructure, education and business. It has been launched in 44 countries and counting; TM is Malaysia’s inaugural CDA partner.

“TM is honoured to be the first company to partner with Cisco in bringing the CDA programme to Malaysia, which has the potential to benefit enterprises, consumers and over 400,000 SMEs,” said a statement from TM chief executive Imri Mokhtar. “This collaboration builds on TM and Cisco’s 17-year partnership and will be the first of many ‘Innovation Sandbox’ collaborations TM will drive, in our efforts to realise the Digital Malaysia aspiration and 5G objectives for the nation.”

Realising the 5G objectives for the nation should probably also include actually launching 5G services.

Malaysia has had a torrid time trying pursue its single wholesale network (SWN) model of 5G deployment. Launched under the previous administration, the ambition to make 5G rollout quick and painless by having just one nationwide network – called Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) – instead of several competing ones, has actually achieved the opposite effect.

The political crisis didn’t help. The 2020 collapse of the coalition government that hatched the SWN plan put everything on hold for more or less an entire year. When things started moving again and the network went live in select locations in December 2021, it soon became clear that telcos were none too keen on the access prices DNB was charging. Just two operators, TM and YTL Communications, signed up to use it, and only the latter has actually begun offering services.

Unwilling to yield to the DNB monopoly, telcos lobbied for the creation of a second national wholesaler to compete with the first. The government would not countenance that idea, and in March offered a compromise where it proposed divvying up a 70 percent stake in DNB equally among the country’s six operators.

This offer went down well with the operators, and late last week local press reported that an agreement has been reached by all sides. An official announcement is expected at the end of this week. With an agreement in place, and with DNB’s stated aim of covering 80 percent of the population with 5G by 2024, Malaysian operators might finally be able to deploy 5G at scale.

 

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