Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin had told Parliament that less than 20% of areas in Malaysia have very poor internet access. He shared this while responding to Padang Serai MP M. Karupaiya on the number of areas that have poor connectivity.
The Deputy Minister added that some areas had faced internet disruption due to criminal acts and vandalism. He said some areas which previously had coverage were disrupted when fibre optic cables were dug out or caused by theft of copper cables or gensets at certain communication towers.
To address internet coverage issues in rural areas, Zahidi said that construction of new communication towers and upgrading works at existing towers to 3G and 4G are currently underway nationwide to improve mobile broadband services. He added that 2,360 communications towers have been completed and 280 are still being implemented until June. He said that a total of 5,348 communication transmitters on existing towers have been upgraded to 3G and 4G, while 11 transmitters are still in the implementation stage.
When it comes to fixed broadband, Zahidi said that the government has implemented suburban broadband (SUBB) and rural broadband (RBB) projects to provide high-speed broadband facilities in suburban and rural areas. Up to June last year, he shared that 639,676 extensions were available while 34,781 extensions are still in the implementation phase and are due to be completed this year.
When it comes to the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP), the Deputy Minister updated that it is currently in the implementation phase and due to completed in stages this year. Phase 1 has already been awarded earlier this year and the next few phases are expected to be implemented soon. In response to Jerai MP Sabri Azit’s supplementary question, he said if the areas are seen to be able to provide better broadband services and the technology which they propose is appropriate for the areas, upgrading would be implemented under phase two and three of the NFCP project.
The NFCP is a five year plan from 2019 to 2023 that aims to provide a sustainable, comprehensive, high quality and affordable digital connectivity to all Malaysians involving a budget of RM21.6 billion. As highlighted by Opensignal’s report, there’s a huge digital divide between big cities and sparsely populated areas in Malaysia. In high-density areas, the 4G availability is 83.7% and it drops to as low as 44% in areas with less than 10 people per square KM.
During the movement control order, internet connectivity has become more critical as it serves as an alternative option for students to continue learning and for businesses to continue their operations. Veveonah, a university student in Sabah went viral recently for climbing up a tree to get good internet connectivity in order to complete her exam. Upgrading of her village’s coverage falls under NFCP 1 which according to MCMC is expected to be completed in Q2 2021. In the mean time, TM has helped to upgrade the internet centre nearest to her village with 300Mbps fibre connectivity.