In 2008, the Malaysian Government and Telekom Malaysia (TM) signed a Public-Private Partnership agreement to officially launch Phase 1 of the national High-Speed Broadband (HSBB) initiative, over a period of 10 years. The Malaysian Government invested RM2.4 billion and TM RM8.9 billion.
Phase 1 of the HSBB project encompasses the deployment of Fibre to the home services (FTTH) covering state capitals and selected major towns throughout the country. It includes planning, designing, implementation, operation and maintenance of HSBB network infrastructure and services.
In 2010, TM’s Unifi was launched for consumers and businesses, a result of the TM HSBB project, offering speeds from 5Mbps up to 1Mbps today.
Despite it being a national project, TM was the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) involved in the partnership with the Government. There were easily more than 10 ISPs in Malaysia at that time including major Telcos like Maxis, Celcom and Digi but none participated, or perhaps wasn’t invited to participate.
Here’s two questions I have in my mind:
- HSBB is supposed to be an open network but how could a company build a network, own it, operate it, and then compete with other Telcos at all levels?
- Why can’t the Malaysian Government build the HSBB network with all major Telcos(at equal share) and then regulate the rates that is fair to all Internet Service Providers?
In August 2010, Maxis awarded Huawei a 3-year contract to build and manage a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network in Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Bahru. But 3-months later, Maxis also signed a 10-year agreement with TM to use the HSBB network. In 2014, Maxis said that the partnership with TM “isn’t good enough strategically, operationally and financially,”
I am not aware of any other major Telcos that are riding on TM’s HSBB network for fibre broadband services.
While the national HSBB project, involving public money wasn’t national enough, pricing of TM broadband service remains expensive until today. For example, a proper 1Mbps Streamyx fixed broadband service from TM is still priced above RM100, at RM116.60/month, while the basic Unifi service at 5Mbps cost RM149/month, both with 2 years contract.
As a Unifi customer myself, I believe that TM has done a good job when it comes to quality of service and ensuring that Unifi is truly high speed. But not all Malaysians could afford it.
In my opinion, Streamyx comes bundled with fixed voice PSTN service which I think many people don’t use (TM PSTN customers have declined over the years), while Unifi comes with non-optional IPTV service (HyppTV). Without these add on, TM’s broadband service could possibly be priced cheaper.
In Singapore, Singtel is offering 300Mbps fibre broadband at approximately RM152/month ($49.90) while a 1Gbps service cost RM213/month ($69.90). These plans even comes bundled with free online storage, free email account, free calls, and free mobile Internet.
Meanwhile TM’s 30Mbps Unifi is priced at RM179/month. If compared to Singtel’s 300Mbps fibre plan, TM is more expensive by about RM20 and speed is 90% slower than Singtel. Unifi comes with free 500MB TM Wifi and other stuff that I personally rarely use. Adding on, Unifi voice calls are charged at 20sen/min, that’s more expensive than calling from a mobile phone.
Another Singapore Telco, Starhub is offering 1Gbps at $49.90 (approximately RM152/month). Knowing all these, who would want Unifi 30Mbps at RM179/month, excluding GST?
I know some people at TM who would disagree with my comparison to Singapore (due to demographic, etc), but the comparison is merely to point out that TM’s broadband service are so expensive.
Locally, I love comparing TM to Time dotcom. Time offers its 100Mbps fibre broadband plan at RM179/month for the 1st 100GB data, anything more will limit browsing speed to 10Mbps for unlimited usage. Time’s 100Mbps is way much faster than TM’s 30Mbps Unifi, yet it is priced the same. While there is a 100GB limit to Time’s 100Mbps, its way below what Malaysians use on average and I could still live with the unlimited 10Mbps.
I keep imagining, what if Time dotCom rolled out HSBB instead of TM, pricing could have been different today.
To date, for the past 5-7 years, TM had deployed UniFi to 103 TM exchange areas nationwide, covering 1.769 million premises. However less than half of these premises have signed up for Unifi. TM has close to 800,000 Unifi subscribers but what happened to the other 800k Unifi ports?
While Unifi take up rate have been slow, the Malaysian Government continued in supporting TM for the HSBB project, Phase 2.
TM recently signed two (2) Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreements with the Government of Malaysia for the implementation of the High Speed Broadband Project Phase 2 (HSBB 2) and the Sub-Urban Broadband Project (SUBB).
For the second time again, no other Telcos/ISPs were involved in the HSBB project.
The total cost of the HSBB 2 investment for a period of ten (10) years is RM1.8 billion whereby the Government will be investing RM500 million and the remaining RM1.3 billion will be invested by TM. The total cost of the SUBB investment for a period of ten (10) years is RM1.6 billion with the Government investing RM600 million and TM investing RM1.0 billion.
TM said it currently has a total of 2.29 million broadband customers, 53% of its broadband customers are now on packages above 4Mbps.
As a realistic consumer, I want a broadband service from TM that is priced right (not excessively priced) or bring real value to current plans. For example, TM calls itself “Malaysia’s Convergence Champion” but I have yet to see single billing for fixed broadband, mobile broadband and mobile plan.
Personally, in my opinion, the Malaysian Government did not help lower down the pricing of TM’s broadband service while countries like Singapore continues to enjoy faster broadband speed that is cheaper than Malaysian broadband pricing. I am focused at TM because it has the most fixed line/broadband customers (calls itself a broadband champion) and gets a lot of support from the Government being a GLC (Government-linked company).
I find it that the Government is too focus on broadband access instead of quality of service, proper coverage, content and most importantly broadband pricing.
For example, TM created the RM38/month, Streamyx Lite 1Mbps for 1GB data with 12-months contract due to preassure from the Government. I feel that this plan is a joke. A lot Malaysian are 1st time Internet users on a smartphone and access to mobile Internet is way cheaper, without contract.
Here’s what I think TM should do in 2016:
- Revamp all Streamyx pricing: Price Streamyx 1Mbps at RM49.90/month, unlimited speed with 2 years contract, no voice service
- Strip Unifi offerings: Offer Unifi without any add on, 30Mbps unlimited usage at RM120/month or 10Mbps at RM100/month, no P2P allowed
- 50Mbps boost speed at RM50/month is super expensive, add on means discount should be given
- Cheaper voice call rates, 10sen/min is the market price
- Internet Anywhere: Offer Unifi+P1 broadband+voice plan, shared 100GB quota, in a single billing below RM200/month.
- Offer a gaming broadband plan with low latency, for Malaysian gamers.
- Offer worthy add-on, static IP, partner with Spotify/Deezer/Guvera for music streaming, home monitoring service (CCTV), bundle known Internet security softwares like Norton/Kaspersky, etc. Why limit Office 365 to business users only?
- A better wireless router, the current ones are terrible
- Expand TM Wifi coverage to cafes like Starbucks, Dr.Cafe, Coffee Bean, etc, where people would sit down and use Internet on laptop/smartphones. Why not cover the whole shopping mall with TM Wifi or a condominium? Also, TM WiFi quality of service should be improved.
- Improve customer service, especially when dealing with downtime. Unifi a premium service, customers should be treated like VIP.
- Revamp the boring TM Rewards programme. Why not offer discounts on new PCs, notebook, computer accessories like keyboard, speakers, etc. Why not TVs as well? and Where is the TM Rewards card?
- Offer a consumer VPN service
- Knowledgeable TM contractors needed. Most of the contractors are focused at ensuring the Unifi connection works, but how about Wifi coverage indoor, home network setup/wiring? At reasonable pricing, TM should offer these services, for example deploying home plug, configuring 2nd router or Wifi repeater. These ensures a smooth Unifi experience at home.
Disclaimer: This is a commentary, opinion based. MalaysianWireless should not be held responsible for any in-accurate information published in the article.