The Journey to Improve Digital Connectivity - Achieving fair and equal, quality Internet access for all
10 Dec 2021, The Star
In this day and age, Internet access is essential for a good quality of life. To close the digital gap, the Jalinan Digital Negara (Jendela) initiative was introduced by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to improve digital connectivity and achieve countrywide 4G coverage, allowing all households to surf the Internet. This transformative initiative is in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) for digital growth. The government has allocated RM28bil to strengthen and increase coverage to nine million premises. This fixed fibre optics network will cover 100% of populated areas in stages with speeds up to 100Mbps by 2025. Some notable achievements so far: > 94.03% of populated areas have 4G access. > Mobile broadband services now hit average speed of 31.34Mbps. > 6.4 million premises have access to fixed stable broadband. > 702 out of 5,394 transmitting stations have been upgraded to 4G technology. > 362 new towers will be built by the end of 2022 to increase 4G coverage of populated areas nationwide. In remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak, and Orang Asli villages, broadband services will be improved using satellite technology. For this purpose, 839 locations countrywide have been identified to ensure that stable broadband coverage can be provided for remote areas which are difficult to access with fibre optics and mobile technology. This is currently in the process of implementation and is expected to be completed in stages beginning November this year till early 2022.
The end of 3G
As we know, 3G facilities will shut down completely as we gradually switch to 4G services this year end. The main goal of Jendela too is to reuse spectrum for 4G and support the implementation of 5G networks – allowing users to have better quality and service experiences when surfing the Internet, video streaming or using online services. For comprehensive coverage, various government initiatives and service providers have been introduced to help Malaysians, especially those in the B40 category, to get Internet access and portable and affordable 4G-capable smart devices. Some initiatives include the Pakej Remaja Keluarga Malaysia and Pakej Peranti Keluarga Malaysia that was launched in October this year. There is also the Pakej Perantisiswa Keluarga Malaysia that was announced in Budget 2022.
5G spurs digitalisation
promising even higher Internet speeds and access while creating more smart services that have a direct impact on the wellbeing of Malaysians. Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Finance Ministry, was mandated to implement 5G infrastructure and networks nationwide. DNB will provide 5G services wholesale to telcos at a transparent and competitive rate. MCMC will monitor trends so that the prices set are fair and based on cost recovery. 5G services offered through multi-operator core network (MOCN) technologies are shareable with all telecommunication companies. DNB conducted integration tests of radio access network (RAN) 5G on more than two networks in the country, and managed to combine a total of five networks, with the sixth network to be integrated soon. This integration allows sharing of network infrastructure and spectrum source usage, altogether bringing down costs. 5G networks rolled out firstly in Bukit Tunku in the Klang Valley and will continue in Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur by yearend.
Digitalisation empowers small biz
Besides building digital infrastructure, the Malaysian Family Digital Economy Centre (PEDi) is equipped with broadband access services and digital infrastructure facilities with trained staff to provide services to empower small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and nurture budding entrepreneurs. Multiple programmes will help them develop their business through ecommerce platforms and subsequently offer their own products through supermarket chains. There are now 873 PEDi centres nationwide with 37 more expected to open in the first quarter of 2022. By the end of next year, another 173 centres will be set up, making a total of 1,083 centres.
In July, the Jendela Map (jendela.my) was launched to enable users to check their network coverage in any area, report network issues and to request for fixed wireless broadband service from network services providers. So far, MCMC has received feedback from 18,247 users and 6,566 reports have been successfully resolved. The Map also relies on crowdsourced information and can be used to improve the quality of broadband services and coverage from time to time. The point of Jendela is to create a more holistic ecosystem so that Malaysians can upgrade their quality of life. In line with the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia which is about prosperity, inclusivity, sustainability, efforts to imporve digital connectivity will help the country to compete with other developed nations as the global economy advances towards a new era of digitalisation and ecommerce.