Roaming clouds: Malaysian connectivity issues

Roaming clouds: Malaysian connectivity issues

Summary: Last week I was in Kuala Lumpur for a few days, moderating the first IT Priorities Roundtable discussion.


Last week I was in Kuala Lumpur for a few days, moderating the first IT Priorities Roundtable discussion.

(Credit: Munir Kotadia/ZDNet Australia)

During a chat with one of the panellists, Chris Cheong, the regional IT director of Lowe & Partners, the conversation turned to cloud computing.

Cheong explained that although the cloud has many benefits, he was weary of implementing cloud projects in Malaysia (and a few other countries in the region) because internet connectivity just wasn't reliable enough.

Cloud computing is "a trend that we should look at seriously in efforts to save money and go green, but I still have some concerns in countries like Malaysia where bandwidth can be problematic", he said.

Unsurprisingly, he was worried about his corporate executives being left without access to critical information.

I got a personal taste of this the very next day, when the otherwise reliable internet connection in the hotel went down for about five hours.

As I rely heavily on Gmail and Google Docs, being without a connection, at any time, is ... well, it's a bit of a nightmare really.

For over a year now, I have taken it for granted that the internet would always be available. If the corporate network, or even my home connection, should fail, I could simply tether my laptop to the 3G connection on my mobile phone.

In KL, my initial reaction would have been to reach for the iPhone but I didn't have a local SIM card and was still roaming on the 3 network. Although that arrangement provides me with a monthly 2GB of relatively cheap data in Sydney, it would cost me $20 per megabyte (yes, megabyte) when in Malaysia.

Now in the past I have achieved 3G download speeds at hundreds of kilobits per second — if I had replicated that for a few hours while roaming in Malaysia, I dread to think what my next phone bill would have been.

Suddenly Chris' concerns about the region's problematic bandwidth seemed very sensible indeed.

Topics: IT Priorities, Telcos

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • I find this article rather amusing as I am a frequent traveler for business to Kuala Lumpur. Free wireless is everywhere in Malaysia, including at KLIA, something that Australia lags behind due to the Telstra monopoly. Technology-wise, Malaysia sports newer and higher speed broadband than most Australians could hope for. In fact, the NBN is precisely what we need to play catch up to countries like Malaysia and Singapore who for a long time have been leading the Internet game.

    So the entire premise for the "reliability" of Internet is based on the hotel's connection going down for a few hours, I wouldn't really call this a credible reporting.

    The next time the journalist is in a spotty internet connection situation, I suggest Gloria Jean. Coffee with free internet. The inspiration for better quality articles might flow through.

    Azizi Khan
  • @fred9999 thanks for your comment.

    The opinion that KL's infrastructure isn't yet reliable enough to go fully to the cloud was not mine, it was from the IT director of Lowe & Partners.

    As i was only in KL for a few days, i simply reported on my personal experience too. Unfortunately, none of the free wireless services you mention were able to penetrate the walls of my hotel.

    I'm pleased you found my blog post amusing.
    Munir Kotadia
  • Hi Munir,
    Thanks for clearing it up. I find it such a refreshing thing that IT directors in Malaysia are willing to sabotage business coming into their country in such a blaze fashion. Must be a new fad.

    As for the free wireless, most of them are in shopping centres and coffee vendors. Even hotel lobbies. Its definitely a change from having to pay the Telstra tax everywhere.

    As a business traveler, I have worked from the terminals at KLIA for free, hotel lobbies in KL and Penang. At Starbucks, Gloria Jean and various other locations without incurring any charges. (These are not unsecured wifi mind you. You can get a ticket for free and use them. )

    Perhaps on your next trip, this suggestion would help you overcome any Internet "emergencies" that might occur to Malaysia's "unreliable" Internet. :)
    Azizi Khan
  • While it may be true that there are plenty of free Wi-Fi hotspot in Malaysia, and that the outage Munir experienced may not be indicative of the "unreliability" of the Internet connection in the country, the issue of broadband reliability is still a very real one in the country.

    Also, although there are many wireless players in Malaysia that have liberalized that landscape, many feel that the incumbent fixed-line operator here is still very much a monopolized business.

    For many companies, which use private connections, SLAs committed by a service provider could mitigate such issues. But on the public Internet front, reliability is still an issue in Malaysia.

    This of course brings to the fore the debate about private vs public cloud computing, and which is the true "cloud." But that's for another day. Suffice to say, I do believe the key concern in Chris' comments is that will his people be able to access critical information whenever and wherever they need it, via the public infrastructure, if he were to implement cloud in his organization, and if the service is reliable at enterprise-grade levels.

    Lastly, while there are many hotels that do give Wi-Fi services, most are not free of charge. Cafes are free, but then again, you'll have to contend yourself with a expensive cup of mocha just to use their Wi-Fi...

    Edwin Yapp
  • KL also has the WI-MAX network which for a small monthly fee or pay as you go, you can get extremely fast mobile broadband to your laptop. What Australian IT companies need to understand is that the demand for cheap reliable mobile broadband is there, the infrastructure is not!!