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The impact of 5G on the Malaysian mobile experience

Malaysia has a unique approach to the 5G rollout — opting to use a single national wholesale network, owned by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), instead of individual networks set up by each national operator. In response to concerns over pricing and competition, Malaysia has also announced that it plans to introduce a second 5G network when DNB’s network reaches 80% population coverage.

It has been over a year since the first Malaysian operator, YTL (Yes), commercially launched 5G services in the country in May 2022. Since then the remaining five operators have followed suit, with Celcom, Telekom Malaysia (Unifi), U Mobile and Digi all launching in early November 2022, and holdout Maxis finally launched 5G as of August 2023. In this report we analyze how 5G has impacted the mobile experience in Malaysia, and to see how it has evolved since the first five national operators joined.

The mobile experience in Malaysia has improved significantly since November 2022, as measured by our users on those networks. 5G Availability and 5G Download Speed saw the most dramatic change in recent months — contributing to a rise in Malaysia’s overall mobile experience. Also, the majority of regions see an improvement in overall experience with faster 5G download speeds and users connecting to 5G for a larger proportion of time.

We have looked at the Malaysian mobile experience in the three-month period after the four operators launched at the start of November 2022, comparing it to the most recent three months ending July 2023. Opensignal data shows considerable improvement in users’ experience between these periods, especially in 5G Availability and 5G Download Speed. 5G Availability has risen by 3.3 percentage points, from 17.7% to 21%, meaning that our Malaysian 5G users now spend over a fifth of their time with a 5G connection. Likewise, 5G Download Speed has shot up, climbing 34.9Mbps (11%) to 353.1Mbps.

Users are not only seeing faster 5G speeds and better performance, they are also spending more time connected to 5G and this is boosting their overall experience — especially in overall Download Speed Experience and overall Upload Speed Experience.

The benefit that 5G provides can be best understood when looking at the overall experience of our users that have a 5G device and a 5G subscription (5G users) compared to the average experience of all of our users in Malaysia, the country average. The overall experience of 5G users completely eclipses that of the country average, especially when looking at speeds. 5G users see average download speeds over triple the Malaysian average, clocking in at a whopping 105.8Mbps. This boost in speed is less, but still impressive for overall Upload Speed, with 5G users seeing scores almost double Malaysia’s average speed.

5G users also have a much better mobile gaming experience too, with their score rating as Good (75-85), while the all user average places a category lower — Fair (65-75). This means that the gameplay experience for 5G users, on average, felt more controllable, feedback between actions and game outcomes was immediate and they experienced little to no delay on their inputs.   
It isn’t only 5G speeds that have improved in Malaysia, 4G speeds have also risen, with 4G Download Speed increasing by almost 20%. 5G is likely also a factor in this 4G improvement, by reducing congestion on the 4G network by shouldering some of the traffic that previously would have been carried by 4G— along with 3G refarming.

Even with these speed improvements, both the relative and absolute boost provided by 5G is massive. Users with a 5G connection manage upload speeds 5.4 times faster than those connected to 4G. Although the relative uplift is less than that seen earlier, the absolute jump in speed is still higher, at 35.2Mbps. Download is the real star of the show, providing monumental boosts of 328.5Mbps and 297.3Mbps for the May 2023 and November 2022 data collection periods, respectively. This translates to a current uplift of a whopping 14.4 times for users with an active 5G connection.  

We have also analyzed how experience has changed across 14 of Malaysia’s regions, including the national capital region — Kuala Lumpur. In all but three of these regions there has been a statistically significant increase in 5G Download Speed — Terengganu leading the charge with its sizable improvement of 91.9Mbps. Kuala Lumpur, Kelantan and Putrajaya did not see a significant change between data periods.

Looking instead at 5G Availability — the proportion of time that 5G users spend with an active 5G connection — we see stark differences in many regions. Users’ scores in Pahang have more than doubled and tripled in Kedah and Terengganu. A further seven of the remaining 11 regions have improved in score, with only Sabah, Sarawak, Melaka and Putrajaya staying statistically unchanged. It is clear that infrastructure has improved across Malaysia, allowing users to spend more time connected to 5G and therefore better utilizing the benefits it provides.

5G is still in its infancy in Malaysia, with the majority of national operators having launched less than a year ago, with Maxis launching less than a month before the publication of this report. Despite 5G having only been available for a relatively short time in Malaysia, many benefits provided by 5G are already clear: 5G users have a significantly faster mobile experience than the country average and have a much better experience playing mobile games. There is an impressive uplift that 5G provides over 4G, sitting at 5.4 times and 14.4 times for Upload Speed and Download Speed, respectively. This is reflected in the overall experience enjoyed by our 5G users, resulting in scores that are leagues ahead of the country average, with download speeds over triple and upload speeds almost double.

The 5G mobile experience has improved over time; users spend more time with an active 5G connection allowing them to more often enjoy the enhancements 5G brings. Speeds have risen on 5G despite traffic increasing on the network. Now that all six operators have signed on, it will be interesting to see how the network will mature and evolve.

If you are interested in how 5G has altered how Malaysia’s operators measure up against each other, Opensignal produces regular reports on the mobile network experience in Malaysia. The March 2023 report can be found here, and a new report will be available in late Q3.