TNB expanding fixed broadband footprint in rural homes

Two more new pilot projects in Felda settlements to test durability and efficiency of TNB’s fixed broadband

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By TMR File

Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) is adding two more pilot projects to connect rural homes to the Internet as the company seeks to make its mark in the country’s fixed broadband segment and take on incumbents like Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM).

Sources told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that the power utility giant is set to launch the two pilot projects in Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlements next month and involve thousands of residential properties.

The two new pilot projects will also test the durability and efficiency of TNB’s fixed broadband based on different locality, environment and weather.

“The two new projects are expected to begin by December, as TNB board wants more testing to be done,” the sources said.

The decision to have more pilot projects was mooted by TNB board after the midterm outcome of the first pilot project was tabled.

“The report was very positive and the feedback from the users in Jasin was very encouraging.

“The top management thus decided two more pilot projects should be done,” one of the sources said.

The maiden broadband pilot project in Jasin, which is expected to be completed by year-end, involves 1,100 houses in Taman Merbau, Taman Maju and Felda Kemendor.

Selected households will gain access to high-speed broadband network made available through TNB’s fibre-optic infrastructure, which forms part of its existing telecommunication network.

The pilot project is the platform to test the concept of Open Access, which is expected to stimulate active participation from new and existing providers in backhaul and retail broadband that will create competition and push broadband prices down.

TNB has about 9.2 million customers across Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan.

In July this year, TNB and TM, both government-linked companies, terminated a memorandum of understanding to develop an implementation plan to deliver the Nationwide Fiberisation Plan (NFP).

The government, via the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, is seeking to liberalise the broadband services sector in an effort to push prices down.

TNB, with its thousands of miles of fibre network, could capitalise on its infrastructure to enter a market dominated by TM.

Minister Gobind Singh Deo had told TMR the government requested TNB to consider offering its own fibre-optic network to telcos to promote competition among voice and data service providers.

The minister said TNB has a ready fibre infrastructure which can be utilised by telcos and will result in a faster and cheaper fiberisation deployment in the country.

TNB has over 12,000km of fibre optics installed. Its bandwidth usage on the extensive fibre network is considered to be small.

TNB ventured into fibreoptic cables in 1975 due to a requirement for its fault-tracking system called Scada and remote metering systems, and since then has added more fibre into the ground which runs parallel to its power cables across the nation. The company, however, uses only a small portion of the available bandwidth.

TNB also has a 49% stake in Fibrecomm Network (M) Sdn Bhd, another fibre-optic network provider in the country.

TM holds the remaining 51% stake in Fibrecomm. TNB has its own ICT unit to manage its fibre network.

Power companies globally have been leasing out fibre to telecoms for many years.

Korea Electric Power Corp of South Korea has since 1993 opened its fibre network to telecom players.

In 2001, Japanese regulators mandated the use of electricity poles and ducts for provision of fibre to homes.

In the US, power providers are obligated to allow pole access to telcos for over 30 years now, while Thailand has done the same for the deployment of high-speed broadband services.

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