Telecommunications company Indosat Ooredoo plans to invest Rp 2 trillion (US$140.5 million) to expand its nationwide 4G network coverage from 81 percent to 90 percent of the 264 million population by the end of the year.

Chief operating officer Vikram Sinha said Indosat Ooredoo would add 18,000 base transceiver stations (BTS), primarily in areas outside of Java, to support the expansion plan.

Meanwhile, CEO Ahmad Abdulaziz Al-Neama said on Friday at a press conference at the company’s Jakarta headquarters that a far-reaching and reliable 4G network was necessary before the company could start developing the more advanced 5G network.

“My main priority is to grow and accelerate 4G services,” Al-Neama said, adding that it was too soon to say whether Indonesia was ready for 5G. He said that Indosat would  follow through when the 5G frequency was ready in Indonesia.

Shareholders appointed Al-Neama as the Indosat Ooredoo CEO at an extraordinary meeting on Aug. 1 to replace former CEO Chris Kanter, who resigned in May.

The Communications and Information Ministry (Kominfo) stated last year that it planned to hold a 5G frequency auction in 2022.

The ministry is working on the issue, but does not seem to be prioritizing 5G networks.

The 5G (fifth generation) communication technology is expected to provide a seamless internet experience and reduced device communication latency to users.

Indosat Ooredoo operates 22,015 4G BTS in 422 cities. The company served 53.3 million subscribers during the first quarter, a year-on-year decline of 44.6 percent due to government regulations on mobile phone number registration, it claimed.

Indosat Ooredoo is 65 percent owned by Ooredoo Asia headquartered in Singapore, which is part of Ooredoo QSC, a Qatari international telecommunications company that operates in 10 countries across the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. (eyc/hen)