Malaysia’s Internet Speeds Improve Even Before 5G is Launched
While Malaysian consumers are still waiting for 5G, that hasn’t stopped mobile providers from implementing other network improvements to provide better performance in the interim. This article explores how Malaysia compares to other major markets in Southeast Asia for fixed broadband and mobile network performance. We also analyze the current state of Malaysia’s mobile market, including data on time spent on 2G, 3G and 4G, and insights into gaps in LTE coverage and what 5G could look like.
Malaysia’s fixed broadband ranks third in Southeast Asia
We compared Malaysia’s fixed broadband performance at the country level to other major markets in Southeast Asia during Q3-Q4 2020. Singapore ranked first on our list for both mean download and upload speeds over fixed broadband with a download speed of 228.68 Mbps and an upload speed of 226.64 Mbps. Malaysia ranked third for fixed broadband download speed on our list with a mean download speed of 90.88 Mbps. Last on our list for mean download and upload speed over fixed broadband was Indonesia with 23.27 Mbps and 13.25 Mbps, respectively.
Malaysia ranks fourth for mobile download speed in Southeast Asia
During Q3-Q4 2020, Singapore had the fastest mean download speed over mobile broadband networks in major markets in Southeast Asia at 68.86 Mbps. Thailand was second (40.54 Mbps) and Vietnam third (33.14 Mbps). Malaysia ranked fourth on our list with a download speed of 24.53 Mbps, followed by the Philippines (17.41 Mbps) and Indonesia (16.69 Mbps). The improvement in Malaysia’s mobile speeds between Q1-Q2 2020 and Q3-Q4 2020 can be linked to initiatives from the National Digital Network Plan (JENDELA) including: upgrading 3G sites to LTE, adding LTE layers with Carrier Aggregation features and changing antennas to support MIMO features.
Singapore ranked the fastest for mean upload speed over mobile with 18.75 Mbps, followed by Vietnam at 18.17 Mbps. Thailand was third for upload speed over mobile and Malaysia again ranked fourth with a mean upload speed of 11.19 Mbps. Indonesia ranked fifth for mean upload speed over mobile (10.42 Mbps) and the Philippines ranked sixth (5.47 Mbps).
Malaysian mobile users show 83.3% time spent on 4G
An analysis of the proportion of users’ time spent that users spent on 2G, 3G and 4G found that 4G was the prevalent technology in Malaysia during Q3-Q4 2020. Users were connected to 4G 83.3% of the time. 3G followed at 12.1% and 2G was last at 1.3%. One of the JENDELA efforts is improving time spent on 4G.
Despite the strong time spent on 4G, there are still major gaps in 4G coverage in Malaysia, as seen from the map of marketed LTE coverage below.
LTE coverage appears to follow population density, with holes in coverage falling in the least densely populated areas of Malaysia, areas with less than 20 people per square kilometer. This includes large sections of Sarawak and Sabah in East Malaysia and portions of Terengganu, Kelantan, Perak and Pahang in West Malaysia. The Malaysian government is gradually retiring 3G at the end of 2021 to free up more spectrum for LTE. Ideally, this refarmed spectrum will improve the quality and speed of 4G mobile broadband and reach customers in areas that are not currently served by LTE, otherwise they will have to rely on 2G connections. 2G currently covers 96.7% of populated areas, according to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
The Malaysian government is paving the way for 5G
In order to fast-track the rollout of 5G products and services, the Malaysian government has made a commitment to build, operate and lease 5G infrastructure to existing and new mobile operators by the end of this year through a special purpose vehicle (SPV). In addition to pre-allocating spectrum licenses reserved for 5G use exclusively in the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands, the Malaysian government has made a commitment to maintaining the existing capacity of existing 4G networks, prohibiting the repurposing of these frequencies for 5G use. In his public speech last month, the Malaysian Prime Minister ensured the public that the SPV will provide fair access to the network capacity to both new and incumbent operators. The government has announced $3.7 biliion to be invested over the next 10 years.
With 5G on the horizon in Malaysia, consumers are beginning to invest in 5G-capable devices. There was an increase of 225% in the proportion of total devices in Speedtest® results that were 5G-capable when comparing Q3-Q4 2020 to Q1-Q2 2020.
Performance should increase dramatically once 5G is commercially available in Malaysia. We will continue to follow this market to see how that change affects their ranking among Southeast Asian countries, how quickly 5G is adopted and how 4G is expanded to underserved areas. If you’d like to learn more about internet speeds and performance in other markets around the world, visit the Speedtest Global Index™.