Digerati50: Ensuring world-class infrastructure

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].

  • A mere 33 when he held key position at ICANN, 42 when he took on MCMC helm
  • ‘I am not popular with the telcos,’ knows has to keep firm grip on industry
Digerati50: Ensuring world-class infrastructure

MOHAMED Sharil Tarmizi is the youngest-ever chairman of industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), being a fresh-faced 42 when he was appointed in 2011.
 
A law graduate from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (now University of Aberystwyth), Sharil was already familiar with Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 as his firm then, Zaid Ibrahim & Co, was involved in the development of the regulatory framework for the Act.
 
He then joined the MCMC in 2000 for what was supposed to have been a two- or three-year stint, but ended up stretching it to six. Sharil loved the challenge of helping shape Malaysia’s dynamic telecommunications sector through the converged law for communications and multimedia, which at the time it rolled out, was a “first in the world.”
 
His desire to “reconnect with the corporate world” led him to join Binafikir, a boutique consulting firm, in 2006.
 
Reflecting on that experience, Sharil says, “In Binafikir, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in the financial services sector and also structuring, restructuring and corporate turnaround exercises.
 
“I found that discipline, and my earlier experience as a lawyer and my time at the MCMC, were complementary,” he adds.
 
The collective experience also served as the springboard for him to be appointed MCMC chairman, after he went back to the regulator in 2009 as chief operating officer.
 
He may have been a mere 42 as chairman, but precocity runs in his DNA. At 33, he was already holding a key post with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN, the global governing body for Internet domain names, as chairman of its Government Advisory Committee (GAC) from 2002 to 2007.
 
At a time when the Government was encouraging Malaysians to make their mark globally, coining the term ‘Global Malaysian,’ Sharil, as the saying goes, had already ‘been there, done that.’
 
“I was most humbled that when I stepped down after chairing the GAC and being on the ICANN Board of Directors, I was honoured with a special mention by the Board and a standing ovation by the global Internet community for my contributions,” he says.
 
On the domestic front, Malaysians will be more than happy to give him a standing ovation if he can lead the telecommunications industry to greatly improve its quality of service (QoS).
 
Having a world-class telecommunications infrastructure is a critical enabling factor for many of Malaysia’s global ambitions. It will be up to the MCMC and Sharil to ensure the country and its citizens get such a world-class infrastructure.
 
Sharil is keenly aware of the responsibility his commission shoulders, once publicly stating that he is aware that, “I am not popular with the telcos.”
 
But then, he is also aware that being a regulator is not a popular job. “In our haste to expand service coverage and push for penetration figures, QoS becomes a challenge. It is also compounded by the fact that Malaysia has been experiencing an explosive growth in smartphone and tablet devices and the networks were perhaps under-planned and under-provisioned for it,” he adds.
 
That may be true, but paying customers don’t want to hear excuses, Sharil knows.
 
“Going forward, we are upgrading and tightening QoS standards. We have also imposed certain policy measures for new services – for example, in the 4G LTE (Fourth Generation, Long-Term Evolution) awards, we made it mandatory for licensees to have a maximum hop of only one link to fibre.”
 
Undeterred by the fact that this was not a popular decision, Sharil says, “We think there is a need to invest in fibre so that we can ‘future-proof’ our physical networks.”
 
Malaysia and Malaysians will expect nothing less in an increasingly competitive world.

 
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