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Coverage not reason for Sabah’s low broadband penetration

14 Sep 2012, The Borneo Post

KOTA KINABALU: The low broadband penetration in Sabah, which lingers below 35 per cent, is not due to coverage issues.

Deputy Information, Communications and Culture MinisterDatuk Joseph Salang said the household broadband penetration in Malaysia was almost 64 per cent, and even Sarawak, which has a larger area and lower population than our State, has a broadband penetration of 48 per cent.

“For some reason, I don’t think coverage is really the issue of the low (broadband) penetration rate in Sabah because the coverage in Sabah has increased tremendously. Tthe quality of service has also improved.”

Salang said this after officiating at the Packet One Networks (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd (P1) launch of its 4G high speed broadband services here yesterday.

“In no small way this launch will contribute to achieving the government’s objective of trying to reach a minimum (broadband penetration) of 50 per cent.
“Although we target by the end of this year, we may not be able to see the target being achieved in Sabah.”

Salang said his ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) were trying to determine the reason of the low penetration level in Sabah.

In Sabah, Salang said the ministry was doing a survey among cellular operators as to how many of cellular users were using smartphones as these portable devices could also connect to the Internet, as well as pushing telco towers to be equipped with 3G at the least.

Salang pointed out that there was also the possibility that there were Internet users who are not subscribers, such as users of 1Malaysia Wireless Villages, who were not taken into account into the broadband penetration as they use free Internet services.

“Maybe Sabahans are smart enough to use local WiFi. That will distort the actual figure,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said with the launch of P1 and the service improvement of existing internet service providers, he is hopeful that the rate of broadband penetration in Sabah would increase.

At the national level, Salang said the household broadband penetration is 63.95 per cent, while the number of internet users in the country had reached 17.5 million, out of the total population of 28.7 million in Malaysia.

He said his ministry and MCMC had been working hard towards improving the infrastructure for broadband such as putting up towers, the setting up of 1Malaysia Internet Centre, 1Malaysia Wireless Villages and distribution of one million 1Malaysia Netbooks to students and rural communities which were among the key initiatives introduced pursuant to the National Broadband Initiative (NBI).

By the end of 2012, the government would set up 628 1Malaysia Internet Centres and more than 4,000 1Malaysia Wireless Villages.

Salang said the ministry also managed to get service providers to reduce their rates for people with low income and to have special rates for interest groups.

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