Opening up fibre market; fixed-line broadband for all telcos

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo(pic) has even asked Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to open its fibre optic network, and potentially ducts and poles to telecoms players. If the latter agrees, then it could signal the end of TM

PUTRAJAYA: Telecommunication players will have little excuse not to provide broadband access via fibre to users across the nation, as Telekom Malaysia Bhd’s (TM) ducts (carriageway) will soon be open to them.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo has even asked Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to open its fibre optic network, and potentially ducts and poles to telecoms players. If the latter agrees, then it could signal the end of TM’s monopoly in the fibre space.

“Our position would be that now other telcos have a right to use those ducts, subject to payment to TM for the right of way, of course with a reasonable payment, and they can use those ducts (pipes) to lay fibre and extent their network,” Gobind said in an interview.

The move is intended to create the much-needed competition in the fixed broadband space by having more players slugging it out. Hopefully, such a move will see a drop in the pricing of broadband packages, the quality of services including the speed improved, and more people potentially having access to fixed broadband services.

There are over 2.5 million fixed broadband users in the country in a market where there are 6.5 million households, leaving much room for growth in this space.

“The process of opening the ducts to all eliminates the need for players to dig the ground to lay fibre, which is a costly process, or to deal with state agencies/local councils. Instead, they just need to run fibre alongside TM’s in its existing carriageway.

“These options are significant for players to allow for access and extension of their networks without having to dig the ground and face challenges.... we can (then) move faster, reduce cost significantly and I am hoping to achieve this in the first three months in office,” Gobind said.

For the longest time, TM’s ducts were solely meant for its own use although the access to high-speed broadband (HSBB) was open to all players. With the new mandatory standard access pricing coming into force, any player can use TM’s ducts to lay fibre to reach out to existing and new areas. The wholesale pricing for HSBB usage has also been lowered.

As for TNB, it has to decide whether to lease out its fibre, poles and ducts to players. If it does, it will change the demographics of access in the country. Companies wanting to ride on TNB or even TM’s ducts will also have to invest to pull fibre optic cables to places where they want to offer connectivity.

While TNB’s poles may be available, TM’s poles are not regulated and players will have to hammer out commercial agreements for that.

TNB was supposed to discuss the matter in its board meeting this week, but queries to it went unanswered.

“The other option is to use TNB’s fibre infrastructure, which spans 12,600km across the nation including Sabah and Sarawak,” said Gobind.

TNB has over 12,000km of fibre across the country with 9.2 million customers, while TM has over 54,000km of fibre deployed globally and over two million broadband customers. Combined with Time dotCom and Maxis Bhd’s fibre network, the nation has a lot of fibre, but most of it is in the major cities and towns.

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