KUALA LUMPUR: Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) is ready for an immediate deployment of the fifth-generation (5G) technology, banking on its existing infrastructure mainly over 560,000km fibre-optic cables nationwide.

Group chief executive officer Datuk Noor Kamarul Anuar Nuruddin said TM was committed to providing high-speed broadband penetration to more than 98 per cent of the population.

"This includes building the critical infrastructure for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) and creating new opportunities for large enterprises as well as small businesses," he told the New Straits Times and other selected media in an interview recently.

Noor Kamarul, however, said the government would need to award the spectrum licence before TM can proceed with the 5G deployment.

He acknowledged that the cost of installing the infrastructure was "within" the company's cost guidance.

"We continuously evolve in line with customers' needs and technology advancements. Today, we serve the digital society, empowering citizens with the right skills and culture to live and thrive in a digital world.

"We also serve the digital economy, enabling the acceleration of core processes across all priority sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and oil and gas, and promoting the information and communications technology (ICT) sector growth," he said.

Noor Kamarul said TM began deploying the high-speed broadband (HSBB) and sub urban broadband (SUBB) projects in 2008 to ensure seamless connectivity to support the national idigital economy agenda.

"To date, we have over three million ports deployed and contributed to the increase in broadband penetration per 100 inhabitant from 16.5 in 2010 to 131.7 in 2019.

TM also spearheads various projects including broadband fiberisation and Unifi migration, upgrading over 900,000 customers on copper network nationwide to higher broadband speed and more than 300,000 customers in fibre areas to enjoy higher broadband speed.

"We are upgrading our existing network to improve quality reliability and to be 5G-ready. This project will increase our network capacity more than 10 times," he added.

Chief strategy officer Tengku Muneer Tengku Muzani dismissed the notion that TM was holding other telcos back and said that the group should be allowed to roll out 5G to propagate faster connectivity for the country.

"But it is the government's prerogative and it is not for us to dictate. We want to be the telco of telcos. It is not about monopolising but rather we allow other telcos to ride on our infrastructure. It is not that we hold them back.

"There are over 100 licensees to roll out fibre in the country but nobody has done it because it was costly. Hence, economies of scale are required and we already achieved it," he said.

Tengku Muneer said the deployment of 5G can be immediate but it would be dependent on the size (area of coverage) and importation of the equipments, which might take time due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

"In terms of digitising the entire of Malaysia, there is no single company that can do it. Hence, every player needs to participate. We do not want an overlapping infrastructure. Sharing infrastructure is a common thing among the telco industry," he said.

He said TM aspires to roll out 5G to underserved households without connectivity, adding that the future would not be about internet quota but rather unlimited data.

He said TM was well-equipped to accelerate the transition to a digital nation with the company's strong communication backbone, reliable network and dedicated leadership team.