Telcos urged to offer affordable Internet packages for rural areas

Abang Johari present the Best Telco Award to a representative of U Mobile, Kasmarliza at the dinner.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Oct 31: Telco companies must come up with affordable Internet packages for the rural areas to ensure the people are not left behind in the state’s digital economy agenda.

While it is expensive to build and maintain high-speed Internet infrastructure to penetrate Sarawak’s interior, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg expressed hope that Internet services providers would be able to provide cheaper services.

The state government has allocated RM1 billion to build high-speed Internet infrastructure across Sarawak but it needed cooperation from telecommunication companies to ensure that rural communities could afford its accessibility.

“In the state’s digital economy pursuit, precision farming through Internet of Things (IoT) is the future of Sarawak agriculture industry.

“The rural areas must have the Internet speed and traffic volume but what is the point of having all these if the rural agropreneurs and farmers could not afford a high-speed Internet package because the rate is expensive?

“Affordable high-speed Internet packages are important for the rural community if we are to develop our agriculture and food sectors,” he said at the Persatuan Penyedia Infrastruktur Telekomunikasi Malaysia (PPIT) and state-backed companies (SBC) retreat 2018 dinner on Tuesday.

Abang Johari added that average (household) Internet speed in the rural areas should reach 50 mbps (megabits per second) with a backhaul speed between 6 and 7 Tbps (terabits per second).

The state government has targeted to build 600 telecommunication towers across Sarawak next year and will increase the number depending on demand.

Sarawak is also establishing collaborations with Indonesia and Brunei on the deployment of fibre optic telecommunication infrastructure to create high quality connectivity throughout Borneo to international gateways.

“Accessibility will change the whole ecosystem. As we create digital infrastructure, we need to ensure the people, especially the rural community, are able to affor high-speed Internet.

“Digital economy will not only benefit the agriculture sector but tourism and manufacturing as well. In line with our economic transformation, we must also prepare the human capital that can adopt to the future needs of digital economic environment,” he continued.

Abang Johari said the state government will also collaborate with Indonesia on mobile digital payment platforms following its cooperation with Singapore. Sarawak is interested to explore areas in the digital economy with both Singaporean and Indonesian governments.

Abang Johari (third right) presents the Best SBC Award to Mohamed Zaid, as Mohd Rehat (second right) and others look on.

PPIT president Datuk Mohd Rehat Ahmad said the telecommunication industry could not avoid the challenges to provide wider services and facilities with faster connectivity to improve the overall quality of telecommunication services with minimum charges.

However, he added, SBCs needed to work together with state and local governments to improve telecommunication services throughout the country.

Among the issues that needed to be addressed was the high charges imposed by local governments in certain states involving the building of telecommunication towers and infrastructures.

“As of October this year, our data showed that PPIT operates 4,590 telecommunication infrastructure sites across the country.

“We welcome collaboration with telecommunication companies to create a shared operation cost mechanism for the benefit of all parties involved in the telecommunication industries,” he said.

The dinner also saw a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) exchange between U Mobile Sdn Bhd and Sacofa Sdn Bhd, as well as supplemental master license agreement and supplemental access agreement exchanges between U Mobile and SBCs.

YTL Communications Sdn Bhd also was involved in similar exchanges at the event.

Abang Johari also witnessed the presentation of Best Telco Award, that went to U Mobile, as well as Best SBC Award that was given to Sacofa.

Sarawak Multimedia Authority general manager Dr Zaidi Razak and Sacofa managing director Mohamed Zaid Zaini were also present. — DayakDaily