MCMC says RM4.6b Jendela works tender to close on March 31, 2021

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — The tender for infrastructure works at 1,661 sites involving an investment value of RM4.6 billion under the National Digital Infrastructure Plan (Jendela) will be closed on March 31, 2021 giving ample time for any party to participate.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek said the eligibility criteria are already available at the disposal of those who are interested in it.

“In the infrastructure level, Jendela would cost the industry and the government a total of RM21 billion,” he said in a virtual session with the media, on the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan 2 (NFCP 2) initiative updates today.

With the introduction of Jendela, tenders relating to it would be dispersed and Fadhlullah said its main difference with the NFCP 2 tender is the number of sites.

“NFCP 2 has 500 sites while Jendela has 1,661 sites, that is a three-fold jump in terms of the tender size and tender load which covers the year 2021 to 2022.

“We think by front-loading it would allow us to get the impact earlier rather than later. In NFCP 2, there were 500 sites and because of Covid-19 the demand had gone up, a lot more places need to be covered and improved.

“Meanwhile, the second difference from NFCP 2 is it still had specifications for 3G and 4G, without having fibre to the tower being made mandatory.

“We also said in Jendela that the 3G network would be closed by the end of 2021, so it would be illogical for us to put up the tender for 3G and close it a year down the road; while constructing for 4G, it would usher in the 5G era that would allow us to enjoy speeds of higher than 100Mbps,” he said.

However, Fadhlullah admitted that the telecommunication coverage and quality is still a prevailing problem. MCMC is doing what it can, but to realise it all will take time as infrastructure works don’t happen overnight, he said.

“It takes us anywhere between 12 and 18 months. If some areas have a tower with radio access equipment that supports 3G, then we can quickly switch that over to 4G.

“The infrastructure deployment within 12 to 18 months would depend on tender submissions, hopefully with the support of the respective states. It might be less than 18 months as some states have begun to see the ‘light’,” he said.

He said in terms of the quantum of investments with regard to the tender itself, it would be around RM4.6 billion giving a total of 1,661 sites.

“It is not a straight-up calculation of RM4.6 billion divided by 1,661 sites and you get the value per site, as each site would be dependent on the typology, the number of people per km because some sites might end up having 3-4 towers and some sites might have 1-2 towers, hence there would be some differences (value per site),” he said.

Jendela is aimed at improving digital connectivity nationwide and is part of the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025), as it lays the foundation for comprehensive and high-quality broadband coverage and the country’s transition towards 5G technology.

Fadhlullah said Jendela has two phases, of which phase one, from now to 2022, would entail enabling as many as 7.5 million premises gigabit speeds with fixed broadband; 4G mobile coverage from 91.8 per cent to 96.8 per cent in populated area; upgrading mobile broadband speed from 25Mbps to 35Mbps; and involve the gradual retirement of 3G networks by the end of 2021.

Phase two, from 2022 and beyond, would involve utilising fixed wireless access and other fit-for-purpose technologies to address further gaps in digital divide, while priming for the eventual adoption of 5G will take place once plans in phase one are achieved.

In Budget 2021, the government is committed to upgrade network coverage and capacity to expand readiness and quality of the communication network.

Under the Digital infrastructure, the government allocated RM7.4 billion for MCMC to build and upgrade broadband services in 2021 and 2022; RM1.5 billion for Jalinan PRIHATIN Programme to alleviate the financial burden of B40 in accessing Internet as telecommunication companies will match the value with free data.

The government has also allocated RM500 million to implement Jendela to ensure connectivity of 430 schools in Malaysia and also RM42 million to improve connectivity in 25 industrial areas.

Additionally, the Cabinet on Aug 28, 2020 agreed on the establishment of the Digital Economy and IR4.0 (Fourth Industrial Revolution) Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and supported by relevant Ministers, private sector representatives, academia and civil societies.

The first council meeting was conducted on Nov 10, 2020.

There are six thrusts under the council and MCMC will be playing a key role in the digital infrastructure and data cluster.

Under the cluster, MCMC will be instrumental in ramping up the development of digital infrastructure and data; prioritising investment on basic infrastructure in rural areas to enable the adoption of IR4.0 technologies; and driving greater adoption of IR4.0 technologies within the government services with National Digital ID acting as the catalyst.

Fadhlullah said the issuance of the digital ID will be done by the National Registration Department and not MCMC.

“MCMC’s role is to try and galvanise people to use it so that all of us as end-users have greater trust for any online transactions,” he said. — Bernama