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Keep 'golden share' in DNB to prevent private duopoly of 5G, Kian Ming tells Finance and Digital Ministries

Publish date: Fri, 01 Dec 2023, 11:02 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Former deputy minister of international trade and industry (Miti) Ong Kian Ming today urged the Communications and Digital Ministry (KKD) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to prioritise public interest in their shareholder agreement with telecom companies (telcos) for Digital Nasional Berhad's (DNB) ownership.

In a statement, Ong among others urged Putrajaya to hold its “golden share” in the 5G network operator to prevent a possible duopoly by telcos with will put profits above public interest.

“My fear is that without proper safeguards, we will surely move to a situation where government oversight and public interest in DNB’s single wholesale network (SWN) is replaced by a private duopoly control over the 5G network where shareholder returns are prioritised above all else and public interest is deprioritised,” he said.

One said in signing any shareholder agreement with the telcos on the ownership of DNB, Putrajaya should take into account several key points including keeping the majority of the shares so it has the power to make important decisions like changing share ownership or selling DNB.

This, he said, ensures that DNB's assets and structure are safeguarded and not sold to private entities, such as telcos, for their profit.

The DAP’s former Bangi MP also said that to secure DNB's survival and prevent misuse by telcos, the government needs the authority to choose DNB's chairman and veto the chief executive officer’s appointment.

“There must be strict controls over the allocation and possible disposal of 5G assets currently owned by DNB. This is so that the telcos cannot reallocate the existing 5G infrastructure to benefit their own network rather than to allow DNB to focus on maximising the operational efficiency of the entire 5G network.

“Finally, there should be proper due diligence and a detailed business plan, evaluated by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission as provided under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (Act 588), on a possible second network, including the financing and rollout plans, and the impacts on the existing 5G network, including any financial implications to the MoF via its exposure to DNB,” he added.

Ong further said that signing the shareholder agreement for DNB should not be hastily done if the assurance of both the government's and the public's interests cannot be ensured.

Citing a report by Singapore-based CNA yesterday titled “Malaysia’s telcos set to agree ‘compromise’ deal with government, ending face-off over a second 5G operator”, Ong highlighted how the report did not make an effort to seek comments from official government sources.

“I also take note that while the report referenced the cases in other countries where the rollout of the SWN model was 'best by rollout delays and low mobile broadband penetration', there was no mention of the excellent record of DNB to rollout 5G in Malaysia via Ericsson, the main 5G network equipment provider,” he said.

He said the achievement has propelled Malaysia to a top three global ranking in 5G speeds and has contributed to enhanced 4G speeds as traffic is diverted to the 5G network, as reported by network intelligence provider Ookla recently.

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