Maxis Communications 3G Pilot Network, Malaysia
Maxis Communications Bhd, one of the largest mobile telecommunications companies in Malaysia, installed a successful 2G GPRS / GSM network in 2001-02 which represented a significant investment at the time of $130 million.
The network was based on the successful Motorola / Cisco solution, where a GPRS network was overlaid over an existing GSM network to enhance data transfer rates. The GPRS system made use of Motorola's Aspira communications architecture. The Aspira architecture combines voice, data and multimedia in one broadband, internet-protocol (IP) based network. This encompasses access networks, applications, services and end-point devices to enable Internet services over wireless networks, voiceover IP and global, multi-feature mobile services.
3G PILOT SCHEME
The successful 2G GPRS / GSM network currently (2004) operated by Maxis in Malaysia is about to be superseded by faster 3G technology. Maxis subscribers are demanding more and more applications that require high data transfer rates such as music download, video phones, video streaming and location-based services. Maxis are now looking towards the installation of a 3G network that could give enhanced services (such as those already operational in Japan and Korea).
Maxis were awarded a 3G licence at the end of April 2003 by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission. The company started construction of a pilot 3G network in June 2003 and in April 2004 began an eight-month 3G trial (including video streaming, videophones, multimedia messaging and location based services).
The 3G pilot scheme is based around the capital Kuala Lumpur and will be trialled by 300 selected Maxis staff and customers who will be provided with the latest 3G handsets from Nokia (specifically the Nokia 7600) and also home 3G terminals. 20 nodes will be located around the trial area within Kuala Lumpur Central Business District, the residential hub of early adopters in Bendar Sunway and in Putrajaya and Cyberjaya regions. The 16km² area of the Kuala Lumpur Central Business District is believed to be the largest area in Malaysia to have 3G coverage.
The commercial launch of a Maxis 3G network is scheduled to occur towards the end of 2004. The larger scale rollout will involve the construction of 300 base transceiver stations in and around the highly populated Klang Valley, which is estimated to cost RM200 million (Malysian Ringitts).
3G PROJECT AND 2G UPGRADE
The contractor for the Maxis 3G UMTS 2000 network is Ericsson (Sweden), who has already installed the 3G pilot network in central Kuala Lumpur. They will now continue under the terms of their contract to complete a 3G network rollout concentrated largely in the Klang Valley.
Ericsson has also been contracted to upgrade the existing 2G GPRS / GSM network with EDGE technology to give enhanced data transfer rates on the older network. This is because Maxis acquired one of its rival telecommunications companies in Malaysia at the end of 2003 called Malaysian Mobile Services Sdn Bhd, and the equipment from their network needs to be redeployed and integrated with the existing Maxis network to provide better network coverage. Maxis have also merged with another Malaysian operator TimeCel.
Maxis realises that the success of any 3G network relies on the availability of 3G handsets on the marketplace. A joint venture between Sony and Ericsson has been contracted by Maxis to provide 300,000 3G enabled handsets in a contract worth RM20 million for the period 2004-05. Maxis also intends to continue its close relationship with both Motorola and Siemens, and 3G handsets from these companies will also be available.
ERICSSON AND THE ASIAN PACIFIC REGION
The Ericsson contract also makes provision for Maxis to set up a Joint Application and Development Environment (JADE) to stimulate the development of multimedia products and services for its subscribers. Ericsson has also taken the step of setting up a regional expertise hub in the Cyberjaya Multimedia Super Corridor near Kuala Lumpur. The centre will showcase new 2G and 3G technologies and its 500 engineers and staff will support 3G growth and the development of multimedia applications. The centre cost RM80 million (US$21 million) to set up.
Ericsson believes that the Asia Pacific region has a great deal of potential for mobile telecommunications (number of subscribers for mobile telecoms is 385 million out of a worldwide figure of 1.21 billion, but only 11% penetration of the market) and it sees Malaysia as a good central base for operations. Ericsson has also submitted a bid to supply equipment for the only other 3G network to be constructed in Malaysia, which is being set up by Telekom Malaysia / Celcom.
NEW SERVICES FOR 2G AND 3G
Maxis are to launch a number of improvements to the service provided to subscribers. The company announced the release of a new larger SIM (subscriber identity module) card in early 2004. Most SIM cards provide only 64K memory to store phone numbers and text messages (20 SMS and 250 phone numbers). However, Maxis are to introduce a larger 256K SIM card that can hold 1,000 telephone numbers, 100 SMS and will also act as a personal organiser and contain two bonus Java games. They will also offer 'Hotlink' activate prepaid cards for a pay-as-you-go mobile talk and data service.
A collaborative agreement was set up in April 2004 to allow interoperability between Malaysian networks for the purpose of making multimedia messaging easier and cross network messaging easier. To extend the range of services available to their subscribers Maxis has set up an agreement with CIMB Securities Sdn Bhd to allow the trading and monitoring of stock and shares in real time using a mobile handset. The service will be called m*trade and will complement an existing service, i*trade, which offers the same service via the Internet.
Maxis mobile subscribers are also set to get video streaming services before the 3G network goes live, as Astro are to provide programme clips, running at 64kbps and 24 frames per second, to the existing Maxis 2G GPRS Network. In addition, Motorola is installing its new push-to-talk over cellular service on the Maxis 2G network that will allow a single subscriber to connect with one or many users at one time via the single push of a button on their handset (this should see most use in the corporate market place for the easy arrangement of conference calls).