Broadband: Banking on government's broader mindset

Posted: 24 Feb 2014 10:41 AM PST

Based on nationwide broadband penetration of 67 per cent as at December 2013, there is a need to multiply efforts in accelerating its progress or face the possibility of an 'Internet concussion' by the year 2020.

Although we came second to Russia among 26 nations with resource and efficiency-driven economies in the Connectivity Scorecard 2013, we still face problems in providing customers with the most efficient service.

Apart from other infrastructures, a fully-developed nation must have a strong, speedy and reliable Internet access to match the increasing demand of globalisation and open market system.

We have about five more years to attain such a status, hence the task to wire the whole nation must be given not only to the existing players but also those with potential to help the government meets the set target.

With 16 ISPs (Internet Service Providers) already in operation - with Telekom Malaysia being the largest - not only the growth rate is slow but the quality of service is not up to expectation. We still experience low and slow penetration in many places.

In Singapore, Internet provider MyRepublic has introduced a new fibre broadband plan with a download speed of up to 1Gbps which costs just S$49.90 (about RM120) a month.

To entice customers, it even credits S$200 to customers who abandon their existing contracts with other providers to use MyRepublic. The credit should be enough to cover early termination costs, which is typically the internet service's monthly price multiplied by the number of months remaining on the contract.

In Asia, our speed is still within the range of 4.54-5 Mbps, which is still below that of Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore although it increases at a rate of 18 per cent since 2010. We ranked 112th on the world chart last year.

The National Broadband Initiative only sets a target of achieving 50Mbps by the year 2015 while is Singapore, the current offering is already 200Mbps symmetrical. Many comments would say Singapore is a small island nation, easy to manage and wired-up.

Its not the question of 'small and easily-managed'. China and India are improving their connection by pooling all capable and potential providers under one scheme. Why can't we?

The Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) can always engage a new-and-proven system introduced by Syarikat Jalur Lebar Nasional (Jalenas) which has the capacity to provide the nation with its 1Gbps broadband.

So, what is stopping the government from engaging Jalenas to complement Telekom Malaysia and other ISPs?

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been very supportive of the Bumiputera company, and so is minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek. Even the MCMC boss Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi has recently recognised Jalenas as the most potential provider that could help the government achieve a better and faster broadband connection in the country.

But what happened?

Jalenas does not need financing from the government. It will be sufficient if Putrajaya provides Jalenas with a minimum off-take guarantee for a minimum tenure of 15 years, which will give a comfort zone to the banks or investors.

I don't care who runs Jalenas but the company has proven track records on the system it provides in some places, including Kuantan and Pekan. It will be very unfair to sideline them just because of politics or our protectionism policy for Telekom Malaysia and 'others'.

Hyundai is willing to pump whatever amount of money needed by Jalenas to put that 1Gbps Internet system in the country. At least, the government should start by improving the connectivity at some ministries and agencies.

Its not good enough to set a national goal of achieving a 70 per cent broadband penetration by the year 2000 because such a target could be further enhanced.

Its also meaningless for PM Najib, Ahmad Shabery and Sharil to issue one 'letter of support and recognition' after another to Jalenas without doing anything to engage and help them grow. What's the point of encouraging potential 'Melayu' to enter the business when we actually want to see them crumble?

Aren't we suppose to pick the best?


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