One common theme that occurred this reporting cycle by the listed telco companies in Malaysia was on LTE. Known by its full name as Long-Term Evolution or with the more consumer friendly, 4G, all the listed mobile and fixed line players are aiming for a piece of the action when LTE goes live.
Actually, it already has gone live in Malaysia with leading mobile operator Maxis stealing a march on its competitors by announcing its LTE network, albeit with limited coverage, has gone live at of January 1 2013. It then followed this up with the launching of two LTE-enabled phones on the eve of Chinese New Year on February 9.
The excitement over LTE stems from the fact that the wireless network can offer speeds of up to 70MB, which when experienced over mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, is blindingly fast. As one telco expert who has experienced LTE in South Korea shares, “At these type of speeds, as soon as you hit ‘play’ for your video, it actually starts streaming.” In other words LTE will offer users a whole new experience that many businesses will take advantage of too.
Maxis, however, is just one of the eight players the Malaysian government, through industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), has allocated the 2600 MHz (2.6GHz) spectrum band to.
The others are Celcom Axiata Bhd, DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Packet One Networks (M) Sdn Bhd, Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd, REDtone Marketing Sdn Bhd, U Mobile Sdn Bhd and YTL Communications Sdn Bhd.
Even the fixed line players are looking to grab some LTE action – if not from a service provider angle, from providing fiber then. As mentioned by TIME dotCom Bhd chief executive officer Afzal Abdul Rahim in an interview with a tech portal yesterday, “We are going to enjoy a bit more business from the mobile operators, especially Celcom and DiGi, as LTE encourages operators to pull fiber directly to the base station.”
Meanwhile, Green Packet Bhd’s Group CEO CC Puan also expressed optimism that the WiMAX player is ready to make the transition to LTE offerings. “We have our entire network LTE-ready and it is just a matter of a software upgrade,” he said during the announcement of his 4Q results last week. Besides offering LTE dongles for high speed data, Puan expects to offer voice based services too.Celcom’s CEO Datuk Shazally Ramli has been quoted as saying the mobile player will invest RM100 million into its LTE network this year. The timing for Malaysia could not be better. With more smartphones expected to be shipped in 2013 than feature phones, the first time this has happened over a 12-month period, there will be a lot of consumers with devices that are built for speed.
According to forecasts from IDC, mobile phone vendors will ship 918.6 million smartphones this year, or “50.1%” of total mobile phone shipments worldwide.
Taken together, what this means, industry observers say is that Malaysia will have a robust high speed mobile network through most of its major cities at a time when most of its citizens will be walking around with smartphones.
And with broadband and especially mobile connectivity a key hygiene factor taken for granted by many international companies, this just keeps Malaysia very competitive as a destination for some of the most demanding global companies in the world.