The rollout for 5G technology in Malaysia has been a challenging journey for all the industry players involved. The response of welcoming 5G into the country has been thoroughly mixed and inconsistent, ranging from concerns of spectrum price setting to the positive reception of the single wholesale network (SWN) model.
Given Malaysia’s commitment to achieving 80 per cent 5G coverage by 2024, business owners of all market sizes will need to incorporate digitalisation in their strategies should they want to grow (or at least, adapt) to the transformational changes that are yet to come.
Amidst its allure for technological advancement, the full capabilities of 5G have yet to be set, let alone defined. What we do know for now is that the speed of 5G could technically surpass its predecessor by approximately 10 to 100 times faster, support more devices in a given area with a broader bandwidth, and lesser delays in data transfer given the ultra-low latency.
However, there will be a tradeoff between the ranges of bandwidth and network speed. Higher bandwidths will have faster speeds and support more devices but will have a limited coverage area.
5G rollout plans
For the case of Malaysia, the rollout programme has incorporated “pioneer bands” of 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz. A total of 75 use cases were piloted across Malaysia over the span of October 2019 to June 2020 and showcased feasibility in smart technology solutions for various industrial applications such as tourism, medical, and agricultural activities.
The government aims to achieve 10 per cent 5G coverage in Cyberjaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya by the end of 2021, while six other cities will be targeted for 40 per cent coverage by the end of 2022.
Malaysia’s 5G initiative trails behind neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. It was reported that the 5G rollout in ASEAN has a positive six to nine per cent growth prospect in consumer revenues with an additional 18-22 per cent increase for enterprise revenues.
Therefore, the era of ASEAN’s digital transformation is becoming an economic force that needs to be reckoned with and should not be ignored by Malaysia should it want to capture the market opportunities.
The report also highlights the possibility of two varying outcomes for Malaysia; the first being a “win for some, lose for most” and the second a “win for many situations”. The first describes a more likely outcome as network operators will seek means to capture revenue via value-added services in order to compensate and cover loftier wholesale costs in the future.
Additionally, the long-term implications might fall upon the end-users through either diminishing service quality or elevated prices.
These implications are a concern to operators as financial restrictions for growth can affect consumer loyalty as well as the comparative advantage to distinguish themselves from the other providers.
Another possibility of this predicted outcome is that these service providers will focus on enhancing their revenue-making 4G infrastructures (considering the fact that Malaysia has yet to achieve a full 100 per cent coverage), making the 5G initiative look more costly and redundant to consumers in the upcoming years.
Only time will tell on whether or not these predictions will materialise as we wait for the government’s decision on the available spectra prices. However, businesses must be prepared to consolidate digitalisation opportunities once the anticipated rollout becomes concrete.
How can businesses prepare
Market leaders such as the service, manufacturing, and agriculture industries have taken a toll during the pandemic and should look beyond existing business strategies to become resilient against future unprecedented risks.
The implementation of the 5G technology model specifically in their B2B supply chain could be introduced with effective systems like inventory tracking, machinery monitoring, and cloud computing.
Identifying the business activities that can use 5G can be done through a discussion with key players of the supply chain and network operators.
Additionally, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should also be aware of the transition considering its one-third contribution to the nation’s overall GDP. A smaller entity structure would mean that 5G innovation can be utilised according to its own scale.
Enhancing e-commerce platforms and client management systems is possible with the use of high-speed networks. Payment methods can be streamlined into a cloud system, enabling efficiency in their order workflow process while product availability could also be updated in real-time to inform the customers.
Just because a particular business is a small entity does not mean that it could not harness the benefits of the 5G technology.
On the contrary, its flexibility in applications allows consumers to make full use of its features according to how they see fit, hence, the only requirement needed from the consumer end to make it work is an innovative mindset to elevate their businesses to the next level.
When it comes to businesses of the future, it is important to consider models that integrate components of sustainability. It is known that entities that embody this concept into their business strategies fare better than their competitors and are more likely to be resilient against unexpected risks in the future.
However, proper implementation is needed and sustainable solutions could mean something as simple as evaluating waste management systems or reviewing monthly energy use.
5G enables devices to be connected into a network to gather crucial information and determine their peak performance use, leakages, and optimal temperature settings required to ensure facilities run smoothly.
Supply chain processes could also be linked into a connected network, enabling traceability features to be adopted which are useful for responsible sourcing efforts.
While focusing on business growth is important, it is worth considering that maintaining businesses at full capacity adds resilience to a company’s viability. Despite common beliefs, the implementation of sustainable strategies can save operating costs by taking note of non-efficient processes to be either replaced or removed entirely.
This handpicking strategy allows business owners to focus on creating maximum value to stakeholders, and in return, contribute back towards the sustainability agenda. This could also align with the growing awareness in consumers who are showing more interest in purchasing sustainability-driven products.
With the commitment of 5G implementation coming near, businesses and consumers alike should aim to have an idea of what it can do for their daily transactions and start planning for the digital transition.
We are venturing into a new era where businesses need to adapt to the needs of the ever-changing economy and reflect long-term value to the end consumers as well as relative stakeholders.
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