Huawei is battling back in the competition to build 5G networks in southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian region is one of the few remaining regions where the Chinese telecom company still maintains influence after being blacklisted by several western countries.
The company is among those lobbying for a role in Malaysia, after the country’s new government announced a review of its predecessor’s 5G plans – including the decision to have Ericsson build a state-owned network.
Malaysia has been one of the slowest in the region to roll out 5G. The Ericsson contract has enabled the country to launch an exclusive government-owned network that most mobile operators have agreed to use.
In other countries, governments typically auction off the ownership for operators to build their own networks.
Sweden’s Ericsson managed to beat Chinese Huawei and Finland’s Nokia to secure the 10-year 5G deal in Malaysia. However, since winning the election in November, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has ordered a review of the process, citing transparency concerns.
Despite the uncertainty, Ericsson has continued deploying 5G and Malaysia claims it reached 50 per cent coverage of populated areas by the end of 2022.
Last week Prime Minister Anwar stated that the country aims to reach 80 per cent coverage by the end of 2023, making it one of the fastest 5G rollouts globally.
To insure that, the government may allow another company to build a rival network to Ericsson’s or it may select a second vendor besides Ericsson to assist the current rollout, a source has told Financial Times.
Malaysia’s finance ministry has said that discussions with stakeholders are ongoing. Huawei and Ericsson have declined to comment.