The Malaysian government stood by a controversial plan to allow a single 5G wholesale network, but outlined an intention to allocate up to 70 per cent equity in state-owned operator Digital Nasional to telecoms players to alleviate competition concerns.

Malaysia will retain the remaining 30 per cent stake in Digital Nasional, a special purpose vehicle set up by the government to manage the single national 5G network.

Reuters reported operators will be allowed to hold equity stakes to speed the construction of infrastructure, citing a joint statement from Malaysia’s finance and communication ministries.

Digital Nasional welcomed the move, stating it looked forward to engaging with operators “to discuss and agree all aspects related to the proposed equity participation”.

It is not yet clear how mobile operators in Malaysia will respond to the latest proposal.

Celcom Axiata, Digi, Maxis and U Mobile have previously called on the government to set up a second nationwide network, to give the country “the security of dual competing networks”.

At the same time, they have reportedly expressed interest in being allowed to take equity in Digital Nasional.

YTL Communications, a smaller operator, has favoured the original single network plan. Telekom Malaysia previously stated it would support the government’s decision.

Digital Nasional began a commercial trial of its technology in December 2021 which was due to end on 31 March. The wholesale player now intends to extend the trial until 30 June to allow more operators to sign up.

During the trial, operators are allowed to access the network without charge “to provide 5G experiences to their end users”. The objective is to achieve 80 per cent coverage of populated areas by 2024.