Week in Review: Telco tales

  • A new MVNO launched by an MVNA, Maxis’ new CEO declines role
  • A telco that is actually an Internet company

Week in Review: Telco talesI WANT to focus on the telco scene for my weekly wrap-up, but with a slight detour that I will try to link back to telcos anyway!
 
An entrepreneur from Germany asked me last year what the main difference was between the entrepreneurial scene in Malaysia and Singapore. He was deciding between the two countries for his South-East Asian base.
 
I told him that Malaysians were probably much more risk-tolerant than our Singapore neighbours. I gave him the example of Digital News Asia (DNA) itself, where two of the founders gave up stable jobs that paid well in respected companies in exchange for the life of entrepreneurs.
 
“I doubt that you would see a similar situation happening with my peers in Singapore,” I told him.
 
Well, you now have a similar situation in the telco space where respected industry veterans in the form of Ross Chia, Loke Yee Siong, Chee Pok Jin and others have joined forces to launch the latest telco player in town, mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) Enabling Asia and its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) service, Buzz Me.
 
Along with other shareholders, who mainly invested based on their conviction that Chia and Loke know what they are doing, the parties have forked up RM20 million thus far in bringing their dream to reality.
 
In a nutshell, these guys, who should be enjoying the good life, are now hustling as entrepreneurs to fill a gap they see in the telco market.
 
I find that amazing. Now, while they say they are not really competing with the big three telcos, do you think the big three believe that?
 
Talking of the big three, there was big news in town with Maxis announcing that its appointed CEO Johan Dennelind will not be taking up the position next month due to personal matters. I wish him well and pray that he comes out well from this challenging time for him.
 
I was really looking forward to having him back on the telco scene and covering the changes he would have brought to Maxis. I think it is a blow to Maxis and I am not alone – RHB Research Institute shared the same opinion in a research note it sent out.
 
It is interesting to note that RHB Research feels that Dennelind’s previous company in Malaysia, DiGi, could benefit from this as the overall competitive nature of the telco industry would have sharpened had he joined Maxis.
 
Now we will never know.
 
But one thing you can bet on in the space is that our telcos are aggressively going after every niche they can find, and education is a big one. Maxis, in particular, is going after that in a big way and even eyeing a chunk of the 1BestariNet project that YTL Communications Sdn Bhd has captured for Phase 1.
 
But don’t call YTL a telco because it is not. “We’re an Internet company, through and through,” says its CEO Wing K. Lee.
 
Do you agree with him? One thing for sure, the RM1.5-billion Phase 1 has certainly thrown it a lifeline as it has clearly struggled to compete in the market.
 
And finally, mark this week as the time that Telekom Malaysia, our former voice utility monopoly, became a data company. In announcing its Q1 2013 quarterly revenue of RM2.42 billion, it noted that 51% of this came from Internet and data traffic.
 
The times, they are a-changing indeed!
 
Previous Instalments:
 
Week in Review: MDeC no longer sole ecosystem anchor

Week in Review: All about founders, or the ideas?
 
Week in Review: Do they owe the ecosystem anything?

Week in Review: GE13 hits the ecosystem … hard

Week in Review: Are our public schools failing?

 
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