Malaysia – Telecom Sector

There has been strong growth in Malaysia’s telecom sector over the last decade, but the growth has not been consistent across the sector. The number of fixed-line services, after growing rapidly at first, had been relatively static for around ten years; then we have seen clear evidence of a shrinking fixed subscriber base. Penetration has dropped from around 17% in 2010 to 12% in 2015. There were no real signs that the fixed-line market was going to pick up again, this despite the government still having some rather ambitious targets in place. The national fixed-line network nevertheless remains an important element in the building and ongoing operation of the country’s telecom infrastructure.

In the meantime, with a mobile penetration of 145%, the mobile operators were locked in close combat: Celcom, with 12.3 million subscribers had the largest market share of the mobile market (31.3%) by mid-2015, very closely followed by Maxis with 31%. Digi followed in third place with 30% market share. Although total subscriber growth has slowed considerably in the mobile market, the move by the operators into next generation platforms and mobile broadband has seen vigorous activity in the market, with strengthening ARPUs. The momentum surrounding mobile broadband was continuing with the roll-out of 4G/LTE licences.

At the same time, the broadband internet sector has been boosted by the advent of mobile broadband. With an effective combination of fixed and mobile broadband, household broadband penetration in Malaysia had reached 72% by mid-2015, according to the MCMC. The long awaited surge in internet demand had arrived, this happening after a period of slower than expected development. Fibre-based broadband services are expanding rapidly and started to impact the market; at the same time DSL subscriber numbers were flat or in decline.

The country’s broadband strategy was given a major boost when the government chose Telekom Malaysia (TM) to roll out a National Broadband Network (NBN). In what was referred to as the High-Speed Broadband (HSBB) project, TM has been busy building a fibre-based open system. Coming into 2015, the operator registered 1.5 million premises passed by its HSBB network, this being out of 6.2 million premises in the country. As part of its 2014 budget announcement, the government had committed a further US$1 billion for the second phase of the HSBB project.

Over the last two decades Malaysia has been working towards a clear national objective to see it ranked as a fully developed nation by the year 2020. The task of building an advanced telecom sector has been regarded as central to achieving this national objective. It has also been a matter of national pride. For a period in the 1990s the country was busy promoting itself as a regional high technology hub. In recent times, however, it has adopted a quieter profile and simply gone about the task of putting what might be described as ‘a technologically progressive economy’ in place. With the widespread application of modern technologies such as fibre optics, wireless transmission, digitalisation and satellite services, Malaysia has been steadily moving towards achieving its national goals, at the same time climbing the global rankings.

Overall subscribers and market share

·         Malaysia’s population of 30 million had a mobile penetration of 145% by early 2015.

  • After a slow start following launch, next generation mobile services (3G, 3G+, 4G) are having a big impact on the mobile and internet markets in Malaysia.
  • Since the issue of 4G/LTE licences at the end of 2012 the operators have been working to maximise population coverage with this platform.
  • The key indicator broadband household penetration had surged to 72% by mid-2015 - including both fixed and mobile access services.
  • The MCMC’s target of 75% household broadband penetration by 2015 appears within reach.
  • The building of a National Broadband Network is well underway, with Telekom Malaysia implementing a rapid roll-out of the government-sanctioned High-Speed Broadband (HSBB);
  • As well as building an open network, Telekom Malaysia was also signing up subscribers to its own ‘UniFi’ fibre-based service;
  • The Asia Pacific Gateway (APG) undersea cable launch was pushed back to early 2016;
  • Growth in Malaysia’s fixed-line services is in decline, with national fixed-line penetration having fallen to around 12%.