Week in Review: Pikom is right, Malaysia needs to buck up

  • Data shows take up of higher speed broadband getting stronger
  • High quality broadband a hygiene factor for investors who expect it

Week in Review: Pikom is right, Malaysia needs to buck upIT takes a lot to rile up Cheah Kok Hoong, chairman of the National ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom), who is as calm and collected as they come.
But the recent comment by Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak that most Malaysians choose slower Internet speeds instead of spending more on faster connections compelled Cheah to use his industry position to speak out on this issue.
Noting that Singapore recently scored another big data centre win despite its high-cost position, he highlighted the affordability and quality of the island-nation’s broadband infrastructure and, turning his attention to Malaysia, said “as a country, Malaysia needs to buck up and change.”
And in fact, this is one item on the association’s ‘wishlist’ for the coming national Budget 2016 to be announced next week – that there be initiatives to lower the cost of broadband and to increase speeds. The demand is there, despite the Minister’s claim.
For instance, DNA’s analysis of Telekom Malaysia Bhd’s second quarter results show that customers of its UniFi high-speed broadband service have increased by 16.2% to 782,000 versus 673,000 a year ago.
At the same time, its ADSL-based Streamyx customer base declined by 4.5% to 1.51 million from 1.58 million a year ago.
So, despite the costlier broadband in the country (see this comparison of costs in the region), Malaysians are increasingly hungry for higher speeds.
And investors expect that as well. It has long become a ‘hygiene factor’ for them. If a country does not have it, they don’t waste time negotiating to invest in that country, and just move on.
And Malaysia, for better or for worse, because of its connection to Singapore, is always compared with the city-state and its broadband infrastructure, which is among the best in the world.
As a country with 477 times the land area of Singapore, Malaysia’s policy-makers have valid points when highlighting the challenges they face in matching Singapore. But we need to get on with the job at hand, or as Cheah said, “to buck up.”
As he noted, investors will invariably compare Malaysia with Singapore. It may be unfair, but we just need to buckle down and work harder to make our broadband infrastructure great.
Because we cannot just be good, we need to be great – offering great speeds and offering great value for those speeds.
And I believe we can. And investors know it too, which is why they compare us with Singapore and push us to match our southern neighbour. There is really no difference in the talent pool, and Malaysia has the resources to make this happen.
The Malaysian Government knows that the very fibre – pun intended – of the digital economy is premised on fast, affordable and wider access, and I think we are going to get a major announcement come next week’s Budget.
But will it be enough to satisfy Chuah and Pikom? Or more importantly, you the consumer?
Meanwhile, here’s a shout-out to Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) for its success in getting Standard Chartered to base its cutting-edge Collective Intelligence and Command Centre (CnC) in Malaysia.
The centre is touted by some in the bank to be the most advanced such facility of its kind in the world.
And while it may have been a natural progression for StanChart to base it here – its information technology arm Scope International has been here for 14 years and has grown from 150 to 5,000 people – a lot of hard work was still needed to make it a reality.
As always, have a restful weekend and a productive week after.
Editor’s Picks:
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Astro stays on the on-demand curve, but is it enough?
StanChart expands Malaysian presence with advanced IT facililty
Previous Instalments:
Week in Review: What’s Next ‘disrupted’ by Tony Fernandes

Week in Review: The slumbering dragon is awakening
Week in Review: Exciting news in the Asean tech ecosystem
Week in Review: The Internet, messaging apps and elections

Week in Review: Small fish will eat the big fish

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