Year 2017 is expected to bring significant developments across Brunei’s telecom industry in the form of infrastructure advances and regulatory overhaul.
Various strategies are in place with the establishment of overseas link-ups and improved 4G services that will provide better coverage, speed and cost benefits for mobile subscribers.
Brunei benefits from substantial telecom penetration; the country reached 100 per cent digitalisation of the phone network in 1995, while mobile penetration surpassed the 100 per cent mark in 2008.
According to the latest data from sector regulator, Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry (AITI), mobile penetration stood at around 110 per cent at the end of 2014.
Established on January 1, 2003 by the AITI Order 2001, AITI functions as the country’s telecommuni- cations regulator with statutory powers, national radio-frequency spectrum manager and developer of Brunei’s information and communication technology (ICT) industry.
On April 1, 2006, the Telecommunications Successor Company Order 2001 and the Telecommunications Order 2001 were brought into force. This led to the corporatisation of the Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Communications to create Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru), which saw the transfer of the regulatory authority of the Director of Telecommunications at the Telecommunications Department to AITI. Prior to this, the department was performing the functions of the regulator and the service provider.
AITI is also responsible for the National Broadband Policy which sets out the government’s overarching policy initiatives and goals for the development of the broadband sector over the next four years (2014- 2017). The policy addresses key issues such as accessibility, affordability, quality and usage.
Closely related to this is content development and positive use of the Internet. The Brunei government hopes to open up business opportunities for local industry players and spur employment through broadband development and broadband-powered services. Broadband development will also provide further avenues for skills and expertise enhancement.
In March 2015, AITI, which has the authority to intervene in matters related to mobile tariffs, moved to eliminate incoming call charges and mobile termination fees. The elimination of incoming call charges is expected to limit the attractiveness of over-the-top services like WhatsApp and Skype which has negatively impacted revenues of telecoms operators in many other markets.
In addition to levelling the mobile playing field, the move – along with an initiative in late 2014 to reduce roaming charges in nearby Singapore – is helping rationalise costs for mobile customers.
As part of the AITI’s efforts to ensure that mobile telecommunication services are accessible to all people in Brunei at a reasonable cost, the regulator and its various stakeholders are currently in the process of accelerating the deployment of telecommunication infrastructure and services along the Telisai-Lumut Highway.
DST remains the dominant mobile service provider, with around 78 per cent market share, according to Sweden’s Ericsson which partnered with DST to build the operator’s 4G network in 2013.
Established in 1995, DST has been a service provider in mobile, broadband services, pay TV and radio services to customers nationwide. It is continuously committed to helping customers keep up with a fast- changing world.
DST’s flagship subsidiary, DST Communications Sdn Bhd (DST), provides the country’s mobile services for 2G, 2.5G and 3.5G and mobile broadband on a HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) broadband network capable of supporting download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps. It has also reached another milestone in providing 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) services.
With over 400,000 customers and over 700 employees, DST works with the main purpose of catalysing Brunei’s economic diversification through ICT, while investing in human capital development and nurturing domestic entrepreneurship. It also provides mobile portal services for its customers.
TelBru is the Sultanate’s largest fixed line and Internet broadband provider, while two other firms – Progresif Cellular and DST – also vie for market share in the mobile segment.
TelBru’s subsidiary B-Mobile was acquired by Darussalam Assets, a government-linked investment holding company, in mid-2014. It was re-launched under the Progresif Cellular brand.
TelBru has been fully operational since April 2006 when Jabatan Telekom Brunei (JTB) was corporatised. Its main shareholders are Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and Brooketon Sdn Bhd.
The premier telecommunications company in Brunei Darussalam is the leading service provider of fixed line and Internet and Broadband services as well as leased line and data services.
TelBru also provides opportunities for career growth and advancement to employees at all levels. It is fully committed to its role in the convergence of facilities and infrastructure advancement in the country, while seeking opportunities for strategic international investments.
In late 2015, TelBru announced it was setting up an IP point-of-presence in both Hong Kong and Singapore by joining the Equinix Internet Exchange.
The arrangement supports TelBru’s efforts to establish peering relationships with telecom majors around the world, while also improving the quality of its local Internet services.
Meanwhile, China’s largest maker of tele- communications networking equipment, Huawei Technologies, is aiming for a stronger presence in the Sultanate with the launch of its enterprise line of products and solutions.
Huawei is seeing a bigger growth in its multi-billion dollar global market share and by 2017, the enter- prise market alone is expected to generate over $10 billion a year for the company.
One of the leading international ICT companies, Huawei has an established footing in Brunei Darus- salam. So far, its involvement is primarily in the tel- ecommunications and radio sector.
Huawei is now confident in catering to a larger industry base with its products and solutions that include data centre, servers, switches and Wi-Fi routers used by government, telcos and enterprises worldwide.
Huawei’s key role in the development of Brunei’s ICT industry is highlighted in projects such as Telbru’s FTTH and DST’s 4G deployment. This will further stimulate the local ICT industry’s competitiveness and competency.
Beginning in 2008, the Huawei initiative is part of its global corporate social responsibility flagship programme whereby it seeks to develop local ICT talent, enhance knowledge transfer, promote great- er understanding and interest in the ICT sector while encouraging further regional development and par- ticipation in the digital community.
In 2015, eight Bruneian students took part in Huawei’s ‘Seeds for the Future’ initiative and returned home from their study trip with valuable experience. While undergoing training at the Huawei headquarters in Shenzen, the participants learnt the configuration of the 3G and 4G systems, as well as the Internet Protocol television (IPTV) and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems.
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