Pricey phones and plans an obstacle to 5G


PETALING JAYA: As the government pushes the rollout of 5G, people are worried that they will not be able to get on the next-generation network if the phones and plans are not made more affordable.

“The obstacle is always the price for me. I could never justify upgrading just for 5G,” said software engineer Pang Mun Kin.

He said that he will be required to upgrade his current plan to a more expensive one if he wants to enjoy 5G.

For junior legal executive Lee Xien Wen, who is a prepaid user, upgrading to a postpaid plan with 5G is expensive.

He wants to switch to postpaid in order to get a 5G phone at a discount.

“It’s going to be difficult, especially for those whose phone plans are not covered by their company. It has to be truly affordable for B40 citizens as current Internet plans are good enough generally.

“I think the government could have gone a step further; it would have been good if there was some sort of subsidy for 5G devices.

“Otherwise, it would have quite an impact on a lot of people’s budgets to have to spend on a new phone just for 5G,” said Lee.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced in his Budget 2023 speech that 5G coverage in the country had reached 50% in populated areas and is expected to reach 80% by year-end.

He said the government will ensure that Digital Nasional Bhd – the country’s wholesale 5G service provider – will be managed transparently and inclusively to encourage all telcos to participate and offer affordable plans.

However, Anwar – who is also the Finance Minister – did not elaborate on how this would be implemented.

Yayasan Digital Malaysia’s digital innovation head Mohd Fazli Azran said the implementation of 5G is good for the national infrastructure and economy.

“To make 5G data plans more affordable, perhaps the telcos could meet with the government to come up with a special package for Malaysians.

“Similar to the Menu Rahmah initiative, this could help the use of 5G become more widespread,” he said.

Malaysia Cyber Consumer Association president Siraj Jalil, however, believes that end-users need to be made aware of the importance of 5G for wider economic purposes.

“With 5G in more industrial areas, we can see companies moving towards automation where they can rely on robotics or artificial intelligence,” Siraj said.

“5G coverage in more areas would mean places like hospitals would be able to enhance their communication and services,” he added.

The government also announced that it will accelerate the implementation of the Jendela digital infrastructure plan with an allocation of RM725mil to develop infrastructure in 47 industrial areas and nearly 3,700 schools.

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