Rais, MCMC chief to join PM-telco meet over 700MHz band

By Jahabar Sadiq, The Malaysian Insider

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s meeting today with telco chiefs upset over YTL Communications Sdn Bhd allegedly getting the prized 700MHz spectrum will have two more guests — Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim and regulator Tan Sri Khalid Ramli.

The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), which Khalid chairs, broke its silence last night by clarifying that YTL Communications only has an individual licence for content applications service provider (CASP) to provide subscription-based Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services using their 2.3GHz WiMax network for five years.

Rais is the Minister for Information, Communications and Culture. YTL Communications executive director Datuk Yeoh Seok Hong told The Malaysian Insider last week it was going to operate the service on the 700MHz band, which Singapore’s The Straits Times newspaper said was causing a furore among local telco chiefs.

“The minister and the MCMC chairman are joining the meeting,” a source told The Malaysian Insider hours before the MCMC statement was issued yesterday.

It is understood that the telco officials attending the meeting have  prepared their arguments on the allocation of the spectrum, and how they should access it, rather than MCMC itself.

Industry observers said MCMC’s denial would mean it was not necessary for the prime minister to meet the telco chiefs over the issue. 

“It seems strange for them to meet the PM and object over YTL’s spectrum when MCMC now says it never assigned the spectrum,” an industry source told The Malaysian Insider.

The MCMC in its statement also clarified that it was assessing a detailed business plan by YTL for the “roll-out of digital pay TV and not 4G mobile services as reported”.

“MCMC would like to iterate that no spectrum assignments has been issued to YTL Communications Sdn Bhd in the 700MHz spectrum band for pay TV broadcasting, hence the reports and commentaries on a spectrum issuance are inaccurate,” it said in the statement issued late last night.

The MCMC also said that under Malaysia’s National Spectrum Plan, “700MHz spectrum band is allocated for broadcasting service and not for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G mobile services as speculated in the various media articles and reports”.

“The ownership of all spectrum bands remains at all times with the Government of Malaysia,” it said.

Yeoh had said that YTL Communications, which launched its YES 4G WiMax service last week, had applied for the 700MHz spectrum from the MCMC for its pay-television service together with US-based Sezmi Corporation.

“We got the spectrum because we want to introduce it quicker than the MCMC plan for full digitalisation of the television service by December 2015. 

“But they can always move us from that spectrum later once there is full digitalisation, which will free up 300MHz between the 400MHz and 700MHz spectrum,” Yeoh had added.

The MCMC statement contradicts Yeoh ’s version of the spectrum they will use for their hybrid television service.

He had said the spectrum given to the firm will enable it to offer more channels and compete with Astro, which offers 119 channels including high-definition television. Astro began its service in 1996 with a 17-year exclusive licence.