Sarawak on track to activate 520 VSAT sites by Oct 2021 to better rural broadband access

Residents of Ng Singat, Sibu giving their thumbs-up to their interim WiFi SALURAN service. The longhouse is a 40-minute drive plus an hour's boat ride from Sibu.

KUCHING, June 24: The completion of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA)-led Wifi SALURAN interim solutions using Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) is now serving 200 targeted communities throughout rural Sarawak.

SMA general manager Dr Zaidi Razak in a press statement today said SMA is fully aware of rural connectivity issues which have been made glaring by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently the respective movement control orders.

“It must be acknowledged that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has re-jigged their JENDELA plan to accelerate interim broadband service for rural Sarawak. As a result, 62 per cent (520) of the total 839 VSAT locations have been allocated to the state and are expected to be fully deployed by October 2021,” he said.

The State government through SMA, Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC) and Sarawak State Service Modernisation Unit (SSMU) have fast-tracked interim solutions for the under-served rural populace of Sarawak.

“Given the vastness of Sarawak, there is a need to take a more pervasive strategy. As such, by leveraging the existing telecommunication infrastructure network, the MySRBN solution has begun their high-speed broadband service.


“As of June 22, 6,167 households have registered for this fixed wireless access (FWA) service and 2,780 personal Wi-Fi top boxes have been installed,” the statement said.

It pointed out that Sarawak Rural Broadband Network (MySRBN), implemented by SDEC, targets to serve 45,000 households in suburban and rural Sarawak, and the details about registering for this service can be found at https://sarawak.digital/mysrbn/.

SMA said SSMU through Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains) has extended the reach of satellite broadband services via their Sarawaknet programme. Sixty sites scattered across rural Sarawak have been installed with VSATs, thus complementing the two hundred Wifi SALURAN.

“The Authority takes note of the sentiments regarding their completed SMART First 300 telecommunication towers that are not on air.

“In the pursuit to expeditiously resolve digital infrastructure and connectivity issues notwithstanding, SMA as a statutory body is subject to the mandated financial process. In addition, there is the ubiquitous compliance to the exacting standards of the telecommunication industry.

“On top of this, to ensure sustainability, project specifications have to be future proof. No less, the inevitable delays owing to technical complexities has resulted in Phase 2 of First 300 tower to be a drawn out exercise. Hence, the gap in completing and commissioning (Phase 2) these towers,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Zaidi noted that in more ways than one, given the lack of economy of scale for commercial telco investment in rural Sarawak, the vision by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to take charge of Sarawak’s telecommunication destiny in 2018 has been a blessing in disguise.

He said the pandemic has created unexpected challenges in this early phase of SMA’s existence since it was founded in 2019, thus demanding the team at SMA to re-focus their time and energy.

“Considerable time is needed to deploy digital connectivity services for our land mass that is 90 per cent the size of West Malaysia. Therefore, the Authority is appreciative of its partners in doubling down and re-calibrating their plans to respond to heightened digital connectivity needs of the community,” he explained. — DayakDaily