Maxis Communications Bhd builds one to three cellular sites a day and in a year, it can build about 400 to 600 sites. This is in line with its quest to increase cellular coverage in the country, said chief executive officer Datuk Jamaludin Ibrahim.
That explains why its annual capital expenditure in recent years has ballooned to RM1bil. Of this, about 50% goes to cellular sites.
Each site can costs anything from RM300,000 to RM1mil, depending on location and type of site, be it towers erected on the ground to placing transmission equipment on rooftops or even in buildings (in-buildings).
Currently, coverage in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Cyberjaya is above 99%. In a dense area like this, the additional one percent requires 150 new cell sites and it would cost anything from RM75mil to RM95mil. This is on top of the 20 sites for in-buildings in Putrajaya.
There is no issue over budgets or additional resources as these have been allocated for but the timing in terms of securing sites and approval from the relevant authorities for sites is a concern for Time 1.
“It is not that we are unwilling but meeting Time 1 deadline is a challenge due to the sheer process of securing sites and getting the necessary approvals,’’ Jamaludin told StarBiz.
As for Time 2, Maxis is a willing party to provide nationwide coverage. It also does not mind sharing infrastructure with other operators either. Today, its population coverage is about 82%.
“But just to reach 96% coverage for instance requires us to build, either on our own or by others, an additional of 2,500 to 3,000 sites just over a year.
“This is roughly the same number of sites that we took the past 10 years to build,'' he said.
But like any other operator, economic viability matters. Does it makes economic sense to provide nationwide coverage, especially to the rural areas where the take up rate may be near to zero, he asked.
“It is also a pure logistics issue. We know we have to build on capacities and coverage but it is also an issue of timing and priorities,’’ Jamaludin said, adding that Maxis would work with the government to reach a workable formula that benefits all.
“There is no question of our determination to improve our coverage and to support the Minster's call,'' he added.
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