Mobile subscribers have been increasing over the last few years. In Malaysia, the total number of mobile subscriptions have surpassed the 40 million mark. This constitutes to more than 140% of the total population in Malaysia.

Mobile subscribers in Malaysia at an all-time high

Maxis commands the highest number of subscribers in Malaysia. This accounts for over 12 million in 2013 covering prepaid and post-paid services. Since then, the numbers have been around this average for 2014 and 2015. Maxis’ closest competitor is Celcom which has about 12 million subscribers in that 3 years as well. Another major telco player is Digi which recorded around 10 million subscribers in 2013, 11 million in 2014 and 12 million in 2015. This makes Digi the best growing telco in terms of subscriber base in Malaysia.

Usage of mobile data services

Malaysians are among the highest in terms of mobile data services across the region. With the availability of fast-speed data, such services are becoming more prominent. More than 65% of subscribers in Malaysia today are using 3G and 4G services. Within the total of subscribers, more than 50% of them use their devices for messaging services. Over 40% of them watch videos while around the same number of people use it for mobile banking.

Mobile Data Subscribers with major telcos

In terms of mobile data services, 3 primary telcos offer them while there are several secondary providers. The main ones are:

  1. Maxis
  2. Digi
  3. TM

Maxis the market leader in mobile data services

One of the primary telcos in Malaysia is Maxis. It offers 2 main types of mobile data services which has millions of subscribers. They are:

  1. Maxis Wireless Broadband – in 2013, this has about 600,000 subscribers but has dropped to around 300,000 in 2015.
  2. Maxis Mobile Internet – with 7 million subscribers in 2013, it grew to another 2 million in 2015.

However, it must be noted that the performance of Maxis has dropped in recent years. Although it claims to command the largest coverage in terms of 4G LTE population, Maxis need to continue its efforts in order to maintain its position. In 2017 alone, Maxis’ revenue generating subscribers or RGS dropped at about RM850,000. In fact, in the last quarter of that year, Maxis lost more than 150,000 subscribers in the prepaid category. However, it recorded an increase of Hotlink Fast customers while there was an increase in their MaxisONE plan subscribers as well.

Digi – Experts in Prepaid, growing in Postpaid

In the last 10 years or so, Digi has been the market leader in the prepaid segment. However, this has started to change with the fast-changing demands of the consumer market. In the 2017 financial year, Digi recorded a drop in their revenue in the prepaid market. This was attributed to the decrease of their subscriber base. However, Digi’s postpaid segment has had a remarkable change with an increase in the conversion from the prepaid segment. With the competition heating up, Digi has been making a lot of inroads in many near markets. The latest figures show that:

  1. Digi’s 2G service covers nearly 95% of the populated areas
  2. the 3G service covers up to 90%
  3. 4G-LTE covers about 89%
  4. 58% of the areas have Digi’s LTE-A service

Celcom – Still the unprecedented champion of coverage

Celcom has often been regarded to be the telco with the widest coverage. It has been known to have served in some of the most rural areas around Malaysia. In fact, Celcom has been one of the most established and oldest telcos in Malaysia. It has continuously reinvented itself and has gone through several re-branding exercises. Where it was once known simply as Celcom, it then changed to Celcom Axiata Berhad before becoming DBA Celcom as it is known today. In fact, Celcom was one of the original players in the cellular network industry of the country when it launched the ART-900 service. Anyone who has used the 010 phone then would know Celcom. Today, Celcom offers a wide range of products including:

  1. Celcom Broadband – as of Q1 2015, Celcom has more than 1.5 million broadband subscribers
  2. Kolony – A social networking service using SMS, it is the first of its kind in the country
  3. Xpax – The brand of prepaid services offered by Celcom
  4. Yoodo – This is a sub-brand by Celcom which provide customers the service to customize their own mobile plans
  5. Celcom Home Wireless – The latest addition to Celcom’s services that provide home wireless broadband internet services

U Mobile – Up and coming serious competitor

U Mobile is perhaps one of the most exciting new telcos to enter this market dominated by the big 3 (Digi, Maxis, Celcom). It actually started in 2007 as U Television Sdn Bhd. Then, it would use Celcom’s nationwide coverage to offer 3G services. U Mobile grew very quickly and exponentially and very steadily began to establish a stronghold in its customer segment. Over the next few years, it would launch new products and enter into various agreements and partnerships. In 2012, it would then move on to use Maxis’ platform and a year later launched its LTE services. By the end of 2014, U Mobile had around 2 million subscribers, a remarkable feat for a smaller telco. Among the achievements that U Mobile achieved over the next few years include:

  1. The first to offer Wi-Fi calling in Malaysia
  2. The first 4G LTE service provided in Sabah’s Kota Belud
  3. Has 95% population coverage in its sites (more than 10,000)

Yes – Up and Coming competitor

Among the many names in the telco industry, Yes is probably one of the most low keyed although it has been around for quite some time. In fact, the Yes brand grew quite steadily due to its association with the YTL Group, one of the largest conglomerates in Malaysia. in 2010, Yes was launched and it would be the first to use WiMAX (IEEE Broadband Wireless Access Standards) to launch the service that converged with 4G. This would be the first service of its kind not only in Malaysia but in the world as well. At that time, Yes was the largest 4G network in the country. It initially offered prepaid services before the postpaid counterpart was launched later. In 2016, Yes rolled out its 4G LTE services and by 2018 has nationwide coverage of 4G + LTE-A services.

Tune Talk – Backed by a Leader in the market

Tune Talk’s brand is perhaps attributed to its association with the Tune Group chaired by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the CEO of Air Asia. Unlike telcos like Digi and Celcom, Tune Talk runs on another network (Celcom) which means it is an MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operator. In fact, it claims to be the largest MVNO in Malaysia. The service was rolled out in 2009 when it offered cheaper IDD calling rates. Among the highlights of the services offered by Tune Talk include:

  1. Tune Talk Monthly Unlimited and SMS Plan – customers enjoy unlimited talk time and SMS from RM30 per month
  2. RM38 for an 18GB per month data plan
  3. RM68 per month for 36GB data

XOX Mobile – Capturing a different market segment

XOX Mobile is a smaller telco in Malaysia which is catered to a different market segment. Like Tune Talk, XOX offers MVNO services. It also uses the network infrastructure of Celcom, covering 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G+. The company has since its establishment in 2005 invented its own brand name and customer base. It is the first MVNO to be listed in the Malaysian bourse. Today, it offers a full range of mobile services where it has more than 1.6 million subscribers in the country.