Leverage satellite technology to bridge digital divide

Satellite is instrumental in bridging the gap in dense urban and thinly populated rural areas

by ASILA JALIL / pic credit: nsr.com

MALAYSIA can leverage satellite technology to address issues surrounding the apparent digital divide in the country while enhancing the rollout of 5G nationwide.

Northern Sky Research LLC research director Jose Del Rosario (picture) cited a study by Opensignal Ltd, which stated that there is a disparity of 4G availability in sparsely populated and highly populated districts in Malaysia where only 44% of the population in sparsely populated rural areas are connected to 4G.

“There is a digital divide within Malaysia today. In order to bridge this divide, we can leverage the advantage of satellite infrastructure, not only to leapfrog but quantum leapfrog infrastructure challenges.

“Satellite is instrumental in bridging the gap in dense urban and thinly populated rural areas,” he said in a webinar yesterday titled “Satellite Communications and the Next Stage of Digital Transformation in Malaysia”.

Data collected by Opensignal between February and September last year also showed that a higher proportion of Malaysian users experienced lower 4G download speeds.

In February, 55.5% of users were able to get download speed of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) and below, however, only 8.1% obtained download speed greater than 40Mbps.

As for June, 59.2% of users had access to download speed of 10Mbps and lower, while only 7.2% of users had download speed more than 40Mbps.

Rosario explained that as bandwidth requirement increases, download speed should also increase to support the need.

“Due to coverage issues or the lack of large ‘pipes’ to support high bandwidth applications, rural and remote areas have to contend with lower throughput compared to urban areas,” he said.

He also said satellite technology can bypass 4G services in rural areas if 2G and 3G services already exist within the geographic locale which would pave way for 5G adoption in the area.

However, he said there is no need for Malaysia to completely bypass 4G development nationwide as there are locations and business cases that will still benefit from 4G.

“But going forward, if the integration can be kept seamlessly and it is simply integrated to move from 4G to 5G, then leapfrog towards that if it could be achieved,” he added.

Recently, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission is finalising the tender process to enable satellite broadband access services in 839 remote locations in the country.

The area includes 178 Orang Asli settlements in Kelantan, Perak, Johor, Pahang, Negri Sembilan and Selangor, 138 areas in Sabah and 523 places in the interior of Sarawak.

Under the government’s MyDigital initiative, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will focus on enhancing connectivity to spur the economy including the implementation of 5G which will be done in stages by year-end.

The government had assigned a special purpose vehicle for the handling of 5G implementation nationwide.