Open 'last mile' access to boost M'sia broadband

Malaysia needs to open "last mile" access to more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to increase the low broadband Internet subscriber base in the country.

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia needs to open "last mile" access to more Internet service providers (ISPs) in order to increase the low broadband Internet subscriber base in the country.

At the Frost & Sullivan Telecom Outlook 2002 workshop on Thursday, Malaysia was deemed to have the lowest percentage of broadband subscribers among 13 Asia Pacific countries.

The figures indicate that for the first half of this year, there were only 2,000 broadband subscribers in Malaysia--a miniscule 0.1 percent of the total 1.9 million Internet accounts in the country.

Comparatively, 4.7 percent of Singapore' 2 million Internet users, or about 95,000 subscribers, enjoy broadband. In South Korea, a whopping 5.2 million people or 32.7 percent of its 16 million Internet population are broadband users.

"What Malaysia needs is to have more ISPs having access to the last mile connection. Deregulation in Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have allowed new players to come in, push broadband subscription price down and boost demand," Frost & Sullivan director of technology practice Manoj Menon said.

Research suggest that Malaysia has not been aggressive in making broadband a reality for most Internet users, he said.

Currently a DSL (digital subscriber line) subscription by ISP Jaring, costs between US$39 (RM150) to US$50 (RM200) a month. But due to the fact that Jaring does not own the broadband infrastructure (which is mostly controlled by state-backed Telekom Malaysia), its service can only be rendered to certain business complexes and residential areas.

"The incumbent ISPs have resources and they should play a bigger role in introducing broadband services in the country. It is matter of unbundling the loop...Telekom Malaysia should see it as a great opportunity," Menon said.

In Singapore, South Korea and in Hong Kong, broadband is offered without time limit for between US$15 (RM57) and US$30 (RM114) per month, Menon said.

"The price is very attractive for for users who are online for more than 60 hours a month. Furthermore, ISPs in these countries offer special package deals and other attractive benefits," he said, adding that Malaysian operators need to learn from these scenarios.

Countries like Malaysia for instance, can learn from the South Korean broadband experience, Menon added.

The South Korean government took a proactive approach when it forced incumbent telco Korea Telecom to share last mile access with other players--which boosted Internet penetration and kick-started a booming Internet-based economy in the country.

Frost & Sullivan expects broadband subscribers in Asia Pacific to grow from 11 million this year to more than 33 million by 2005.

Freelancer N Ismail reported from Kuala Lumpur.

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