Infrastructure developments and regulatory over- hauls have seen Brunei’s current telecommunication services improve immensely.
The industry, overseen by the Authority for Info- Communications Technology Industry (AITI), contin- ues to develop and grow through various strategies put in place to expand Brunei’s networks and links to the rest of the world.
AITI functions as Brunei’s telecommunications regu- lator, emerging on January 1, 2003 as a result of the AITI Order. It operates as a statutory power but also manages the national radio-frequency spectrum and provides support for the development and growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry in Brunei.
Prior to AITI, the regulation of Brunei’s telecom- munication was handled by the now-defunct Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Communications. On April 1, 2006, the department was corporatised as a result of the Telecommunications Successor Company Order 2001 and the Telecommunications Order 2001 and transformed into Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru), operating solely as a service provider.
In 2013, AITI set out the National Broadband Policy, a policy plan demonstrating the government’s policy initiatives and goals for broadband development over four years (2014-2017). The policy covers a range of issues such as accessibility, affordability, quality and usage.
The past few years have seen a surge in mobile phone and broadband penetration in Brunei. According to data from AITI, the country’s mobile phone penetration reached 125.5 per cent in 2016, an increase of 14.1 per cent from 2015.
In early 2017 alone, the penetration had already reached 118.7 per cent. Meanwhile, mobile broad- band penetration grew by 19 per cent to 121.2 per cent in 2016. Globally, Brunei has the third highest social media penetration at 86 per cent.
AITI views cyber security as vital in ensuring a safe and secure cyberspace. AITI’s efforts under cyber security include combating cybercrimes, enhancing cyber security and protecting the likes of intellectual property rights, digital identities, personal data and the privacy of individuals online as well as child pro- tection, making sure children’s experiences in cyber- space are safe for education and the enhancement of their creativity.
AITI recently tapped into academia to further their research and development capabilities in ICT. In December 2017, the regulatory body signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) to collaborate in conducting research activities with hopes of provid- ing policy input.
AITI, in efforts to provide full access to telecommu- nication services to Bruneians at all locations, are also involved in providing telecommunication infra- structure along the Telisai-Lumut Highway.
Established in 1995, DST is a leading telecom- munications service provider, offering mobile, broadband, pay TV as well as radio.
DST provides customers nationwide with mobile services through one of its subsidiaries, DST Communications Sdn Bhd (DST). The company offers services in 2G, 2.5G, and 3.5G through both prepaid and postpaid plans as well as mobile broadband on a HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) broadband network, allowing access to users to download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps. In 2014, DST introduced its 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) services.
In an effort to further enhance their mobile services, DST partnered with Sweden’s Ericsson in July 2017 for personalised services through a new online charging system. The Ericsson Charging System will be available for prepaid service management across 2G, 3G and 4G services. The new infrastructure will provide subscribers with real-time information on service and data usage, immediately modernising DST’s charging and business support system as well as improving user-experience.
DST is committed to its corporate social responsibility programmes and has made significant contributions to education, sport and welfare.
In addition, DST released a mobile application called Safe Safar in support of road safety by reducing road accident rates caused by mobile phone usage. The application functions urging to reduce calls or texts during driving by limiting certain features in a mobile phone to ensure drivers stay focused on the road.
Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru) is the leading provider in fixed line Internet broadband ser- vices, leased lines and data services.
The telecommunications company pre- viously functioned under the Ministry of Communications before it was corpo- ratised in April 2006, transforming the Telecommunications Department into TelBru. TelBru’s main shareholders are Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and Brooketon Sdn Bhd.
In 2014, TelBru’s subsidiary company B-Mobile – a mobile service provider – was attained by Darussalam Assets. The company was later re-launched as Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd.
In 2015, TelBru launched My TelBru, a mobile application aimed for the convenience of the company’s customers. My TelBru contains features that encompass day-to-day aspects of the company’s service, such as paying bills and purchasing data top-ups. Additionally, the application is one of TelBru’s efforts in going green by reducing paper usage.
As of August 2017, 80 per cent of its custom- ers can enjoy access to a more secure and faster connection through fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) since the company rolled out the huge infrastructural upgrades in 2013.
TelBru achieved another milestone in September 2017 when it successfully attained an ISO certification. TelBru’s ISO 1900:2015 illustrates the telecommunication company’s dedication in providing customers with excel- lent customer service while delivering high quality products. ISO 1900 denotes the inter- national standard of a quality management system (QMS).
TelBru established the Process Improvement Unit which functions to process documenta- tion, process improvement analysis, organi- sational structure change, support-to-system development, performance indicator evalua- tion and process culture orientation to meet international standards. As a result, TelBru managed to acquire the certification in 10 months.
TelBru is renowned for its commitment in providing support for the career growth of its employees. October 2017 saw 25 TelBru employees graduate with Executive Masters in Management (People Leadership) from its one year Leadership Development Programme under Asia e-University, a programme designed specifically for TelBru. The programme sought to produce reliable and effective leaders for different departments across the company.
Smart Nation is TelBru’s initiative in develop- ing and enhancing Brunei’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry to improve quality of living as in line with Brunei Vision 2035. A long term strategy, TelBru pro- moted Smart Nation through roadshows held at schools across the nation, introducing to students concepts under the Smart Nation umbrella, with Internet of Things (IoT) its flag- ship topic. The roadshows aim to encourage Brunei’s youths to be potential contributors in Brunei’s ICT industry.
Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has, in recent years, solidified its presence in Brunei’s ICT industry through its various prod- uct offerings and services. Notably, Huawei was involved in TelBru’s FTTH rollouts and DST’s launch of 4G services, amplifying the local ICT ecosystem.
Through its global corporate social respon- sibility programme, Huawei introduced the ‘Seeds of the Future’ initiative. The pro- gramme allows Bruneian students to undergo an intensive two-week course where they can gain a firsthand experience of being involved in a large ICT corporation.
In 2017, six students from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) following various courses under- went the programme, where they completed a one week training course in the telecommu- nications sector after completing a one week course on Chinese language and culture. The programme seeks to nurture the local ICT tal- ent as well as strengthen knowledge transfer.
Rebranded, restructured and revamped, Progresif have their sights trained on becoming the country’s most innovative mobile service provider.
“It means being a very nimble, agile and adaptive organisation that does the things it says it’s going to do,” CEO Paul Taylor said when asked what being ‘progresif’ was all about.
“We’ve invested considerably over the last two years in building both breadth and depth of network to the extent now where we are comparable with our competitors in terms of key areas of coverage.
Progresif’s market share rose materially in through- out 2017 and the company’s latest subscriber count sits at approximately 166,000.
The company’s considerable growth, particularly over the last year, can be to some extent attributed to its strong adherence to its four pillars of corporate social responsibility – education, arts & culture, envi- ronment and entrepreneurship.
In 2017 alone, Progresif provided hosting facilities for the inaugural Brunei Ricebowl Startup Awards, sponsored the Brunei Film Blitz and the team from Bruneian universities sent to compete at the CIMB Asean Stock Challenge 2.0.
“Part of our approach to these things is not just the sponsorship itself but maximising the spinoff benefits which we might possibly take to market as well,” said Mr. Taylor.
Progresif has been a proud supporter of the startup movement in Brunei and initiatives such as Darussalam Enterprise’s (DARe) 100-Day StartUp boot camp, and further underlined their commitment by establishing a StartUp Lab of their own.
Located at the company’s headquarters in Gadong, the lab provides fully equipped and furnished work- ing spaces as well as support and advisory services concerning finance, legal & regulatory, marketing, sales, IT and engineering.
Dart Logistics Sdn Bhd – Brunei’s first ride booking service – has been a tenant since May 2017. “We’ve provided them not only with accommodation, but part of the Dart service relies on a package that the drivers use and we’ve introduced a service at advantageous rates to cover off the driver to Dart hub communications,” the Progresif CEO said.
“We’re looking at ways of leveraging the capability that they are developing to our mutual benefit.”
The Progresif Radio app was first launched in November 2017 and enables users to listen to live- streamed shows or on-demand content.
Upon its launch, Chief Marketing Officer Devin Edwards said that Progresif’s investment in radio falls in line with the company’s ongoing support for Brunei’s creative industry and opens a greater opportunity for local content development and distribution.
The app currently boasts over 12,000 downloads, with more than 200,000 user sessions recorded in December 2017.
“The radio represents an added line of business to those that we’ve historically engaged in,” Mr. Taylor remarked. “We are doing quite a lot in terms of using the radio to reinforce things like our CSR activities.”
Despite its significant development over the last few years, Progresif’s CEO insists the company still has some ground to cover in terms of establishing a brand in the corporate marketspace.
“If you look at the most recent market research in terms of customer satisfaction, then I think the brand sits very proudly in the youth and some of the overseas workers communities,” remarked Mr. Taylor. “The work we need to do is to capitalise on and take that goodwill into mid and larger corporate areas where there is good opportunity for growth and innovation.”
There is also plenty to do in terms of sustaining their considerable growth over the last 18 months and building for the future.
“We’ll be looking at adding the next generation mobile technology to our capacity and strengthening our customer care capability,” he said.
“Beyond that there are some internal things we’ll be looking at such as solidifying culture, and train- ing programmes and development activities for the workforce here, which is about 90 per cent local.”
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