Pilot project brings satellite broadband service to SMK Baleh, Kapit

KUCHING: Fast broadband for rural schools in Sarawak is here and SMK Baleh in Kapit has been enjoying satellite broadband service even though it is situated far in the interior, thanks to a pilot project that aims to provide Internet connectivity for students in the remote parts of Sarawak.

The project is the result of social corporate responsibility with the service provided by Integrated Access Communication Sdn Bhd, a joint venture effort between Sanjung Etika Sdn Bhd and Exuscor Sdn Bhd, co-sponsored by Telbina Technology Sdn Bhd with technical support provided by Konsortium Bumi Consultants and Services Sdn Bhd.

“It has been done to address the urgency of providing Internet access to areas deemed inaccessible and not worth investing in.

“Increased access to satellite broadband communications, especially to remote parts of the state, will help remote schools to create opportunities for their students to explore and achieve simultaneous educational development as students in the urban schools in the country.

“Ensuring students who live in areas not serviced or underserved by terrestrial broadband is of utmost importance to the state’s economy,” said a spokesperson from Konsortium Bumi Consultants and Services Sdn Bhd.

The service allows the school to have its computer labs, all classrooms and the main office connected to the Internet directly via satellite.

Satellite dish and other equipment set up at SMK Baleh to provide fast speed broadband.

“The satellite offer download speeds of up to 10Mbps (upgradable to 100Mbps). The connection will help to widen internet access in Sarawak from the current 53 per cent (with an average speed of 4Mbps) to 95 per cent (with an average speed of 30Mbps) by 2020,” said the spokesperson.

He pointed out that the satellite broadband service project is powered by the latest generation of the Hughes Network Systems.

“It’s the world’s most widely deployed satellite network platform, and one of the first to employ the DVB-S2x standard in its JUPITER™ System for more efficient use of satellite bandwidth.

“The service includes expanding infrastructure to other similar schools in the state as quickly as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing when contacted said the conversations around broadband access in schools typically concentrate on enhancing students’ education and expanding opportunities for their success. In reality, the implications of broadband access are more extensive than that.

WiFi access point at SMK Baleh.

“Broadband is critical to ensuring school-going children can compete in the digital economy.

“Students are the next generation of workers. Therefore, the ability to know how to operate in a digital world is essential for them to stay ahead.

“We, as a state, argue that the future of our economy is one of being a leader in the digital industrial space. Thus, it’s important that both our current and future class of employees understand how digital tools work,” said Masing who is also Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister.

He said despite many central efforts to improve infrastructure planning and introduce new communication services, the fact remains that many rural schools in Sarawak do not have any broadband access.

“Internet providers are ready to enhance and create Internet access but, unfortunately, are not able to serve areas without any return on investment. This inability is mainly due to Sarawak’s sparsely populated areas and geographical terrain.

“Hence, be it through government incentives or regulations, the state’s policy must address this market failure quickly. Public-private partnerships and choices of viable technology, such as those that have been developed in other countries, are good examples of positive approaches to this challenge,” said Masing.