U Mobile has announced that it’s ending its RAN (Radio Access Network) sharing agreement with Maxis, citing that it would instead focus on expanding its own network. The termination will be done in phases over 18 months, and is expected to be completed by 27 December 2018.
The 3G RAN sharing deal between U Mobile and Maxis signed in 2011 was a first of its kind in South East Asia. RAN sharing allows U Mobile users to “roam” on Maxis’ 2G/3G network and “fill in the blanks” where U Mobile’s own network did not have coverage.
For telcos, RAN sharing helps reduce capital and operational expenditure by sharing infrastructure.
When it launched in 2007, the orange telco had a domestic roaming agreement with Celcom, which let it ride on Celcom’s 2G network. This enabled it to have instant nationwide coverage (2G), while it built its own 3G network.
RAN sharing isn’t uncommon, especially in overseas markets. Locally, new players like webe also has domestic roaming ties with Celcom.
In an official statement, U Mobile said that it will be replacing current RAN sharing sites with its own 4G network. Utilising 2x15MHz of 1800Mhz and 2x5MHz of 900Mhz spectrums acquired from the MCMC last year, U Mobile will have 18 months to match Maxis’ coverage before the end of the tenure.
Upgrade works will happen progressively, and U Mobile does not expect the works to impact customers’ network experience or service quality.
U Mobile currently has over 5.6 million subscribers with a split of 25% postpaid and 75% prepaid users. It aims to increase its postpaid subscriber base to 50% of its total subscriber base in three years.
Its strong growth can be attributed to its innovative and at times disruptive products and value added services. Its slew of Unlimited Hero postpaid plans, Power Prepaid and “Onz” features have given it an edge over bigger players.