Minister to meet telecos to discuss role in wiring up Malaysia

Front row, from left: The Star Media Group Bhd group MD and CEO Wong Chun Wai, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo and Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA) members were the guests at the MAA-World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Digital Governance Forum. Other guests included Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Al-Ishsal Ishak (second row, left) , CFM chairman Mohamad Yusrizal Yusoff (second row, middle) and MAA vice-president Claudian Navin Stanislaus.- AZMAN GHANI / The Star

PETALING JAYA: Mobile companies that focus primarily on the cellular business will be required to play a role in laying more fibre optics to connect with consumers in the e-commerce/digital era.

“My position is that we have got an objective to meet, which is to try to (lay more fibre optics) and connect the entire country as soon as possible, and all telecoms players will have to do their part.

“It is also not just about fibre but also about last-mile connectivity and so forth. It is the whole eco-system that we need to build and that is why all players will need to be involved,” Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said when asked if mobile companies would also have to be involved in providing fast fixed-broadband services.

Gobind said he needed to sit down with all the players to discuss their involvement and role in wiring up the nation, and also on the USP funds and distribution of spectrum.

“We will meet the players to discuss how this can be done,” Gobind said on the sidelines of the Malaysian Advertisers Association-World Federation of Advertisers Digital Governance Forum yesterday.

As for mobile players other than Maxis Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd that are already in the fixed broadband space, others will need to review their business plans and capital expenditure requirements if they were to also get into fixed broadband services, apart from providing mobility solutions as they do now.

The incumbents in the fast fixed broadband space are Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) and TIME Dotcom Bhd. Bhd and U Mobile have yet to announce any plans to get involved in the fixed broadband space, even though a fibre optic network is needed when 5G is implemented.

“The world is moving towards a completely digital era, commerce is dependent very heavily on connectivity, and I think Malaysia has to stay in the front to make sure that we get ourselves fully connected so that Malaysians can take full advantage of what the entire e-commerce/digital era has to offer,” he added.

Since taking over as minister, Gobind said he wanted fixed broadband prices to be halved and speeds doubled.

Up to now, Celcom, Maxis and TM have dropped prices and increased speeds, but Time dotCom has yet to do so, but Gobind believes it will be done as it has signed the access agreement with the access provider.

The involvement of all players, including mobile companies, forms a portion of the second part of the plan to increase fixed-line broadband penetration in Malaysia, he said.

The first was to bring down wholesale access pricing and this has since been implemented, with wholesale access prices being reduced up to 80%. It is with that reduction that players are able to drop fixed broadband prices for consumers.

To ensure there is enough fibre capacity for players to offer fixed broadband services, he has even asked Tenaga Nasional Bhd’s (TNB) fibre network to be opened to the telecoms players.

TNB is conducting trials for that in Jasin and the outcome will be known by the end of the year on how its network can be used to help improve fixed-line broadband in the country, and also for last-mile connectivity since TNB has a large enough subscriber base across the nation.

Gobind said that while there has been some reduction in pricing and an increase in speeds for fast fixed broadband, a review was needed on “older fixed broadband packages” and also the Streamyx packages and speeds.

Asked on what would be the fate of players that refused to cooperate to help wire up the nation, Gobind said “of course when we implement something, we expect all players to do so.

“If they do not, then we will have to take action under the Communications And Multimedia Act 1998. We are also moving towards increasing the penalties and they should know we are serious”.

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