SPARE a thought for the 2.8 million customers left behind on ancient ADSL service even after the HSBB network was rolled out more than 10 years ago.
For those households and businesses, the Internet via copper lines have them connected to the Internet at speed that is considered too slow by modern standards.
“A lot of people are still using streamyx that runs on copper. That is another challenge, so we may need to upgrade and think about fiberising those places. That is what we are looking at and we also have to look at our neighbours such as Singapore, they have moved to total fiberisation, we need to do that too,” Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo says.
Industry experts feel the ADSL technology given to those customers can be easily replaced with fibre if there is a will to do it. There are landed properties in major cities and towns that still do not have fast fixed broadband access for players to cater to.
“Let’s be clear, the bulk of the country can be wired with fibre but there is a small portion which is the very remote areas that can only be served with mobile and satellite communications,” says an industry executive.
The upgrade to fibre from copper can take up to two years if each mobile and fixed player is given a certain zone of work on, says the expert. Once they have laid the fibre, access should be given to all.
“If we can do that over two to three years, a larger population will have fixed broadband,” he says.
Another adds that the government has to make it “mandatory for all to invest in fibre and it should not be just Telekom Malaysia Bhd.
One way to quickly address the issue is by opening of ducts and using power and telephone poles. Fibre optics can be run through the ducts and poles to connect to a wider area.
That has been floated since 2008 when industry experts said ducts and poles should be opened so that Internet access can be provided to all.
This is similar to what Vietnam and Thailand have done and that seems to be the only economical means of reaching out to areas that don’t have fibre coverage.
“It may be unsightly but it is very quick way of laying fibre optics throughout the nation. Of course having fibre in ducts underground is much cleaner and nicer but it is very expansive. Besides, how do you justify investing in ducts in outlying areas?” he asks.
Experts believe that the mobile players are spending less than 5%, some only 3%, of their operational expenditure on fibre whereas their counterparts are spending between 10% and 15% globally but these figures could not be verified.
Another executive says the fibre can be strung on along poles, which is a cheaper option than putting ducts in place.