Migrate to 4G now

Digi’s main cell tower in Mulu, Sarawak. (Right) Digi’s network field engineer carrying out regular inspection and maintenance on a tower.

KUCHING: It is critical that 3G users migrate to 4G now to ensure minimal disruption once the 3G network shuts down nationwide by the end of this year, said Nesakumar Retnasamy, head of Network Engineering at Digi.

Through this migration, he said Malaysians would be able to enjoy the many essential benefits that 4G brings.

“This includes crystal clear Voice over LTE (VoLTE) calls and smooth internet experience, especially on Digi’s network which has been verified as the fastest and most consistent in Malaysia by Ookla, as well as the network for best video experience by OpenSignal,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.

He said that in order to ease the transition from 3G to 4G for the people, Digi offered several affordable entry-level mobile plans with 4G devices, curated for the B40 community.

“These include the Jaringan Prihatin programme which offers subsidies on devices and the Pakej Peranti RM1 Malaysia Prihatin, launched in conjunction with Merdeka month, offering smartphones at only RM1.

“We also have a special Postpaid bundle with RM0 device advance payment, exclusively for frontliners and essential service workers, many of whom are from the B40 community,” he said.

Jendela and 3G shutdown

Nesakumar pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought to light several areas of improvement required in the country’s digital infrastructure, such as the rapid rise in internet traffic and the demand for better connectivity as many aspects of people’s lives had shifted online when needing to be physically apart.

As such, he said the National Digital Infrastructure Plan (Jendela) plan spearheaded by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was formulated to provide wider 4G coverage and better quality of internet experience for the society.

Nesakumar Retnasamy, head of Network Engineering at Digi.

“Part of Jendela’s programme is to shut down 3G network in the country — a move that is necessary to efficiently enhance 4G network performance by repurposing 3G spectrum.

“The 3G spectrum is currently under-utilised, with a significant reduction in 3G traffic over the past four to five years, while 4G traffic has increased tremendously as users move up to 4G,” he said.

He noted that similar transformation exercises were also being practised around the globe.

For Malaysia, he said the nationwide 3G shutdown would take effect by Dec 31 this year.

“Retiring the 3G network is a carefully planned decision by the government and the industry to improve the nation’s connectivity. Re-farming the spectrum used for 3G to support the ever-growing 4G traffic is critical to quickly and effectively enhance the 4G network performance,” explained Nesakumar.

He said that repurposing the 3G spectrum to boost 4G capacity will enable the industry to collectively deliver Jendela’s targets to increase mobile broadband speed to 35Mbps and to expand 4G coverage to 96.9 percent of populated areas by next year.

“In other words, Malaysians will enjoy improved connectivity and overall better internet experience, powered by 4G,” he said.

A phased approach

Nesakumar said that alongside the rest of the industry, Digi was committed to realising Jendela’s national aspirations in a phased approach.

He said the first phase focused on strengthening the foundation by optimising existing digital infrastructure, with a target of increasing 4G coverage nationwide to 96.9 percent of populated areas by the end of next year.

“These areas include urban, suburban, as well as rural areas. For instance, recently, Digi successfully rolled out new 4G sites in Mulu, which covered areas as remote as the national park, as well as providing the community in the Mulu vicinity Digi’s 4G network services, enabling them access to the internet to support online schooling and other daily online transactions,” he said.

As for the second phase, he said this involved new technologies with an aspiration to achieve 100 percent coverage by the end of 2025.

“Achieving this would require the deployment of fit-for-purpose technology solutions, such as satellite broadband to reach geographically challenging areas, and fixed wireless access to cater to sparsely populated areas.

“These have been outlined in the Jendela plans, and we look forward to supporting MCMC in bringing connectivity to all Malaysians,” said Nesakumar.