The Malaysia Government said that it needs to study on ways to improve mobile coverage and Internet speeds in rural areas, in Sabah.
In response to a question from Senator Adrian Banie Lasimbang in Parliament, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin said a study should be conducted with service providers and Sabah state Government to identify solutions that are economically viable and future-proof, to improve mobile coverage and speeds in remote and blind spot areas of Sabah. Population in remote areas of Sabah will also play a role in determining an effective network infrastructure.
The Ministry said it is aware of areas that are not suitable for the deployment of fiber optic network and 4G technology due to topographic conditions. Therefore, the use of satellite technology through Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) is currently an option to provide Internet services in these areas. However, the Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister acknowledged that the use of satellite technology in remote areas was not the best solution in the long term for broadband services. He said that broadband services through satellite technology have several disadvantages including limited capacity, high operating and maintenance costs as well as unstable connections due to weather conditions and power outages.
He added that efforts to improve mobile coverage and quality of broadband services, especially in rural and remote areas not only involve the Federal Government but also the cooperation of various parties, including the state government to facilitate the process of deploying new Telco sites for 4G.
The first 4G network in Malaysia was launched in 2013 while 3G has been available in the country more than a decade ago, since 2005. As part of an ambitious national multi-billion project called Jalinan Digital Negara Plan (JENDELA), the Government said it will deploy 940 new Telco sites nationwide by end of 2020, 4,589 sites to be upgraded to 4G by end of 2021 and another 1,661 new 4G sites to be deployed by end of 2022.
Out of the 1,661 locations identified by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), a total of 1,020 locations or 61% are located in Labuan, Sabah and Sarawak respectively, whilst the remaining 641 locations or 39% are located in Peninsular Malaysia. 78.75% or 1,308 sites are located in rural and remote areas.
By the end of 2022, 4G LTE human population coverage is targeted to reach 96.9% with a promised average 4G speeds of 35Mbps.[PDF]– Response by Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin in Parliament