UTM Whitepaper reviews 177 MHz spectrum gap for Malaysia’s Mobile Broadband

Aug 10, 2017 :

Wireless Communication Centre (WCC) of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) today released a whitepaper to understand the existing mobile broadband (MBB) performance and user experience in Malaysia. The whitepaper reveals that the nation requires an additional 307 MHz spectrum to satisfy MBB traffic forecasted by 2020. However, only 130 MHz out of 307 MHz can be achieved, resulting in 177 MHz of spectrum gap to be fulfilled, according to the study. To enable WBB (wireless broadband) requirement, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and IoT services, like video surveillance, even more spectrum is needed.

Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman, whitepaper lead researcher and Director of Wireless Communication Centre (WCC), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), accompanied by his team of researchers who spearheaded the study on Malaysia’s spectrum needs.

The study was conducted in four key areas of Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak across urban, suburban, rural and indoor areas. The study indicated that there is a serious need for enhancing 4G network capabilities in rural areas of East Malaysia. Although, Selangor and Klang Valley has a strong position in 4G services with consistent and stable results, there are signs that the network is becoming more congested in these areas. It also showed that there were indoor areas with poor cellular signal strength coverage distributions which can be further enhanced.

Malaysia is poised to benefit immensely from the full potential of the digital economy. Wireless connectivity is the key platform for digital economy and spectrum is the main commodity driving our wireless services. The deployment of wireless connectivity can enhance productivity and expand the nation’s economy.

“Malaysians are progressively relying more and more on mobile services and connectivity, as the demand for larger wireless spectrum to support mobile and broadband systems with higher capacity is projected to keep increasing in the next few years. To meet the demand of high data traffic in mobile networks, providers need more spectrum to maintain the quality of service that consumers have come to expect and rely on,” says Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman, whitepaper lead researcher and Director of WCC, UTM.

In addition, the whitepaper expands on UTM’s plans and policies needed for sustaining and accelerating the deployment of MBB technologies for the future. This is to realize the efforts needed to be made from MBB stakeholders, including the government to achieve the desired serviceability envisioned in the year 2020. These stakeholders must close the gap between increasing data demand and the lack of sufficient wireless frequency spectrum to support the ever growing number of connected consumer devices and mobile traffic.

“Only 130 MHz out of 307 MHz required by our spectrum forecasting analysis can be achieved, hence we recommend additional policies such as allocating more spectrum for MBB services,” Prof. Dr. Tharek Abd Rahman added.

Other suggested policies for the development of Malaysia’s MBB include government incentives to boost MBB deployment. A prime example of this is the Universal Service Provision (USP) project for rural areas created by the government. The study suggests the need to open access to publicly funded infrastructures such as utility poles for outdoor base station deployment; and both public and private partnership to accelerate indoor coverage improvement. Operators are also encouraged to explore new LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) technology which uses the unlicensed frequency band of 5 GHz (currently utilized by Wi-Fi) in combination with licensed LTE primary frequency connection to deliver better downlink performance through carrier aggregation.

The government is aiming to double the speed of internet connection with its pricing to be slashed in half within the next two years. With the current household coverage already approaching 90%, LTE wireless broadband is an ideal supplementary solution to deliver high speed broadband to households. It is suggested that mobile operators can take a larger role in fulfilling this national broadband aspiration.

In order to maintain Malaysia’s ICT competitiveness in the region, the government, mobile operators and relevant stakeholders should work together to achieve a targeted KPI for national broadband service; such as the RMK-11 target which is 100 Mbps broadband made available to all households in dense urban and urban areas; and 20 Mbps broadband made available to 50% of households in suburban and rural areas by 2020. The study propositions wireless broadband to complement fixed broadband to integrate as part of a national broadband infrastructure. Underserved areas, especially remote rural areas can be serviced more rapidly to help bridge the digital divide in Malaysia by 2020. One of the key elements to achieve this target is by acquiring the right spectrum.

With strategic policies, goals and obligations, the national MBB industry will be able to propel towards a reliable, vibrant and sustainable ecosystem.