Monday, March 20, 2023

Sarawak to spend RM50 million on VSAT stations, 30Mbps speeds

The Sarawak state Government is expected to spend RM50 million by the end of this year on Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) stations, to improve internet connectivity in rural areas, with download speeds as fast as 30Mbps, including via Wifi.

An example of a VSAT dish antenna from Maxis.

According to media reports, Sarawak Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was reported as saying that the state government wanted to improve internet coverage across the state and it could not wait for the telecommunication companies to build the internet connectivity infrastructure in Sarawak.

VSAT stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal. It uses the satellite to transmit and receive data (Internet), voice/fax and more. A VSAT antenna can be installed on the rooftop, on the ground or even be mounted on the wall. It is about 3 times the size of an Astro dish and generally the overall weight is about 190 kg (including the antenna mount). The base foundation required for installing the VSAT antenna on the ground is 6 feet x 6 feet.

“They (telecommunication companies such as Celcom and Digi) might see that building such infrastructure would not make profit for them due to lack of population in some areas. We on the other hand want a wider and better internet coverage for the people regardless of which area they live in Sarawak,” said the Sarawak Chief Minister.

The state government believe that installing VSAT stations is the best solution to solve the problem of poor internet connectivity for Sarawakians, he said.

He pointed out the advantage of VSAT stations is that they are portable and could be moved around to areas where they are needed.

“Once an area where the VSAT is stationed already has internet connection service from the telecommunication companies, it will be moved to other places which need it,” he said.

The Sarawak Chief Minister however did not disclose how many VSAT stations will be installed across the state.

Once installed, VSAT is expected to help entrepreneurs and farmers in the rural areas who need internet to market their products and improve communication with various agencies and organisations who can help them.

MalaysianWireless notes that VSAT broadband services don’t really come cheap. Connectme, one of the satellite Internet service provider in the country, claims to offer 100% coverage throughout the country. At the time of writing, the cheapest available satellite broadband plan from Connectme starts from RM198 a month for 60GB of data and speeds up to 25Mbps. A single, standard installation for the Connectme service in Sawarak cost RM1200 and 24-months contract applies.

In 2009, it was mentioned that a total of 304 rural clinics and libraries nationwide use VSAT technology in Malaysia. Maxis has launched its VSAT services in Sabah and Sarawak using SkyWay VSAT operating on C-band satellite frequency due to its weather tolerant capability. By deploying VSAT, more public payphones and Internet are now available in many remote areas, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said.

Recently, the MCMC revealed that Malaysians enjoys an excellent 91.8% of 4G LTE mobile coverage in populated areas nationwide. As part of its Jalinan Digital Negara Plan (JENDELA), the regulator wants to achieve 100% 4G LTE mobile coverage in phases and over 100Mbps mobile broadband speeds via 5G by the end of 2025.

Last week, the following 3G and 4G coverage statistic for Sarawak were revealed in Parliament (Dewan Rakyat):

Daerah Peratus (%) Capaian
3G 4G
Asajaya 87.3 84.30
Bau 89.7 71.45
Belaga 30.5 20.16
Betong 83.0 69.64
Bintulu 82.7 72.64
Dalat 85.7 73.23
Daro 78.1 72.95
Julau 37.4 23.59
Kanowit 62.2 48.57
Kapit 42.2 32.31
Kuching 97.7 94.61
Lawas 73.2 60.73
Limbang 78.2 59.46
Lubok Antu  53.2 43.05
Lundu 82.7 69.35
Marudi 38.0 34.79
Matu 67.3 63.96
Meradong 95.8 77.67
Miri 89.6 81.51
Mukah 79.5 68.82
Pakan 51.8 30.33
Samarahan  99.1 95.01
Saratok 83.6 60.84
Sarikei 93.2 76.51
Selangau 49.6 36.21
Serian 83.2 64.50
Sibu 97.5 94.96
Simunjan 79.0 69.36
Song 37.9 20.10
Sri Aman 87.7 75.22
Tatau 49.4 40.86


Some 636 new Telco towers are expected to be built in Sarawak and over 1,000 to be upgraded as part of JENDELA.

Kugan is the co-founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy

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