Foreign telcos keen to join broadband market

By P PREM KUMAR, ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

FOREIGN telecommunications companies (telcos) have expressed interest to participate in the local fibre fixed broadband sector, which is now largely controlled by Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo (picture) said local companies with foreign tie-ups, as well as international companies from Japan and Korea, are among the parties that are keen to take part in the government’s aggressive fiberisation efforts nationwide.

“Foreign companies have expressed interest on how they can assist in our policy to connect the entire country,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Malaysia: A New Dawn Investors’ Conference yesterday.

The foreign companies’ participation will be evaluated by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) on a case-by case basis.

“We think we can reach some sort of agreement with the companies, but of course we have to take it back to MCMC to see whether or not such proposals are viable — regulation and legislation wise,” said Gobind.

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) recently embarked on a pilot project to utilise its fibre optics to offer fixed-broadband which, if proven successful, could make the utility giant as the second fixed-broadband infrastructure provider in the country.

TNB owns over 12,000km of fibre-optic cables today, having invested over RM10 billion to set up the infrastructure since 1975.

Gobind said the foreign companies are interested on the government’s new approaches introduced in the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP), which would be launched in due course.

“A lot of parties have come up with ideas and having heard them, I believe that there is a necessity to see outside of what we have now if we want to wire up the country faster,” he said.

MCMC is currently finalising the draft of the NFCP and will begin consultation with industry players on the type of technologies to be deployed, network planning and funding models, as well as the roll-out schedule.

Gobind said among primary targets of the NFCP would be to set a baseline broadband coverage at 98% in populated areas by 2023, with broadband at a minimum speed of 30Mbps.

“This can be achieved via the deployment of the 700MHz spectrum that the market is awaiting to see,” he said.

He added that the masterplan has also targeted the installation of gigabit-speed Internet services for selected high-impact and strategic industrial areas by 2020, and all state capitals by 2023.

“This is to ensure that areas where there are high-use cases for 5G would be ready for network deployment when the standards have been finalised.

“As the 5G New Radio specification continues on its standardisation path, I am pleased to announce that Cyberjaya and Putrajaya will be 5G testbed areas,” he said.

He said Cyberjaya and Putrajaya are equipped with a fibre-ready network and are ideal locations as testbeds for 5G.

MCMC is expected to lead the 5G trials by setting up a taskforce that will include the local governments of both cities.

For a period of one year, beginning November 2018, telcos, vendors, researchers, startups and technology adopters will be invited to carry out 5G trials in Cyberjaya and Putrajaya in order to explore the practical uses and modes of implementation.

“It is no secret that fibre coverage in Malaysia is lagging severely behind our peers. To address this problem, the NFCP will be phasing out copper networks by 2023,” Gobind said.

He said new buildings and developments should be equipped with built-in fibre networks.

By 2022, the government also envisages that 70% of all schools, government offices, hospitals, clinics, police and fire stations will be served by fibre networks.

“This is a two-pronged target — firstly, it ensures that the government will be able to serve the people using digital solutions and secondly, as points to push fibre connectivity into communities,” said Gobind.