This is how broadband can be deployed quickly in rural areas where 4G coverage is not available

Broadband connectivity has become more important during the current pandemic as most Malaysians will have to go online for work and online classes. Unfortunately, basic mobile connectivity is still lacking in rural areas of Malaysia. You probably have heard stories about students climbing trees and some even endangering their own lives just to get good mobile connectivity.

While Malaysia has pulled the handbrake on 5G rollout and to shift its focus on strengthening its existing 4G networks, it will still take a long time to upgrade connectivity in underserved areas. However, there’s actually a solution to deploy fast broadband anywhere in Malaysia and it can be ready in just a matter of days.

Satellite broadband provider ConnectMe currently has a prepaid solution called ConnectMe Now, which is Malaysia’s first Prepaid WiFi service that’s powered by satellite. It offers 100% nationwide coverage via MEASAT’s satellite broadband system. Unlike the typical postpaid satellite broadband offering, there’s no hefty upfront payment required and users will only need to pay for what they need since this is a prepaid offering.

Connectme Now Dish

According to ConnectMe, the prepaid service can be deployed in just a couple of days and they are targeting rural communities that have no 3G or 4G coverage with a population of about 100 people. We are told that the ConnectMe Now service has been deployed at Orang Asli settlements in West Malaysia as well as interior villages in both Sabah and Sarawak.

ConnectMe Now Satellite Solar Deployment

What’s interesting is that the WiFi service can even work in areas without a reliable power source. In such locations, they can deploy a solar-powered solution with battery supply to power up the router and WiFi access points 24/7.

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How to apply ConnectMe Now Prepaid

The satellite-powered WiFi hotspot can cover an area of 100 metres with its 2x Omni WiFi outdoor antennas. The WiFi coverage can be extended if required.

Apart from providing connectivity, there’s also an ecosystem around it. The landowner can be incentivised for hosting and providing power supply for the equipment, while a local dealer can earn additional income for selling the prepaid vouchers.

We are told that there are 2 prepaid options – 1GB data for RM10 which is valid for 30 days and 5GB data for RM40 which is valid for 60 days. Although it costs more than a typical mobile prepaid plan, it is still cost effective considering that it can be deployed quickly and there’s no upfront cost for the community. This serves as a practical interim solution to provide high-speed access to underserved Malaysians.

As a comparison, the normal ConnectMe plan costs RM198/month for 60GB of quota and the installation fee can be as high as RM1,200 in East Malaysia. They used to offer unlimited quota for RM138/month but the plan has been discontinued.

ConnectMe has distributors not only in West Malaysia but also in Sabah and Sarawak. At the moment, they have covered more than 900 sites nationwide. For those who are living in areas with a population of 100 people without 4G access may contact ConnectMe’s distributors to get started.

ConnectMe to offer up to 100Mbps in 2021

At the moment, ConnectMe provides download speeds of up to 30Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5Mbps. In 2021, the service will be able to provide even faster broadband speeds with the launch of MEASAT-3d.

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The new satellite based on Airbus’ Eurostar E3000 has a High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) capacity of 30 Gbps. It can provide download speeds of up to 100Mbps via Ka-band which can further narrow the digital divide between urban and rural areas.

Of course, the drawback is that latency is definitely higher than mobile connectivity. Since the signal takes quarter of a second from earth to satellite, the ping is more than 500ms but it’s more than good enough for video streaming and web browsing. The weather can also affect the quality of service but as demonstrated by ConnectMe, it can still get close to 20Mbps even when it’s raining.

Recently, the MCMC has announced that Sabah state-backed firm, Common Tower Technologies Sdn Bhd (CTT) will provide VSAT connectivity for Kampung Gusi in Sabah as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. ConnectMe has confirmed that they have been appointed by CTT to deploy its satellite broadband service for the village.

For more info, you can check out ConnectMe Now on their official website.

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Alexander Wong