Over the past few years, several major developments have taken place in the country’s telecoms and infocommunications landscape. On December 15, 2018, the Ministry of Communications was renamed the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) to reflect the ministry’s expanded portfolio, taking into account the development of global technology and digital economy, among others. In 2019, the country’s telecommunications network infrastructure was consolidated and officially taken over by Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN). The three telcos – imagine, DST and Progresif – focus on retail operations with UNN providing equal access to the network infrastructure.
The following year, MTIC announced the BND25 annual licence fee waiver for mobile phone subscribers, effective January 24, 2020. The annual fee waiver is a step taken jointly by the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), MTIC and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) in line with the restructuring of the telecommunications industry. It aimed to make telecommunications services more accessible and affordable for the public, and to increase the community’s readiness to adopt new digital technologies and services.
On January 24, 2020, DST and imagine launched new products and service packages to provide more choice for consumers, while Progresif introduced theirs on February 1, 2020. Consumers were advised to do their due diligence before subscribing to a different product or switching to a different service provider.
To ensure consumers can make a fully informed decision, all service providers are required to provide transparency on the following: service price and package; product features; terms and conditions of use; billing practices; customer care services; Fair Usage Policy describing the service provider’s traffic management practices; early termination charges; and unused credit balances.
The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) is a statutory body which is responsible for Brunei Darussalam’s telecommunications and radiocommunications regulation, radio frequency spectrum planning and management, as well as ICT industry development. Recognising the untapped potential of the domestic ICT talent pool, AITI has introduced several initiatives to prepare Bruneians with the skills related to the fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0).
The ICT Upskilling for Unemployed Youth programme was initiated to equip jobseekers with the relevant programming skills. Participants with at least Higher National Diploma (HND) qualification in ICT-related fields were taught the fundamental programming languages such as HTML, CSS, React, ReactJS and NodeJS. They were also mentored by technical specialists and underwent an internship programme with hosting organisations. Upon completion, participants were offered employment opportunities by the hosting organisations. The pilot programme carried out for three months ended in December 2020.
Following the pilot programme’s success, AITI is scaling up the programme to train at least 60 jobseekers with coding and programming skills. Facilitated by Recap Sdn Bhd, the Coding.bn programme is currently open for enrollment for unemployed youth who are committed to six months of training.
AITI launched a pilot project to introduce programming among primary and secondary students in collaboration with three private schools: Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) School, Seri Mulia Sarjana International School and St Andrew’s School. The project aimed to equip students with the knowledge and skills on computational thinking and coding using smart devices, namely Bee-Bot and micro:bit supplied by AITI. This initiative ran from May 2020 until March 2021.
For the community, AITI organised an eCommerce workshop for Village Consultative Council members in Tutong and Temburong districts, facilitated by TechOne Solutions and supported by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This is an ongoing programme which aims to encourage communities in all districts to use e-commerce and reap the benefits of doing business online.
On November 27, 2020, AITI signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Beep Digital Solutions to develop and implement the Cashless Society Pilot Programme. The programme was rolled out in the next six months with the provision of training and incentives to three targetted markets – paid parking lots, laundromats and convenience stores – so they can adopt a digital payment system in their premises.
As Brunei Darussalam is poised to introduce 5G technology, the National 5G Task Force has been established. The 5G Task Force is made up of three working groups, namely Policy, Regulatory and Spectrum; Use Cases, Applications and Infrastructure; and Education and Awareness. The 5G technology with its high-speed mobile broadband is set to revolutionise the connectivity in the years ahead thus opening up endless opportunities for the development of innovative services in the industries and enhance economic growth in the country. The country is ready to commence its 5G pilot programme in the first quarter of 2021 in selected locations.
The Brunei Darussalam 5G Seminar held on January 28, 2021 raised awareness on the benefits and opportunities of 5G innovation. Experts and speakers from local and international organisations were brought together to explore how 5G innovation can bring socio-economic benefits. AITI also signed a collaborative agreement with Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) to develop use cases based on 5G capabilities and ecosystem which will be carried out at UTB campus. A report on recommendations for a holistic view for 5G implementation in Brunei Darussalam will be produced.
In the area of personal data protection, the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) through AITI as the interim agency together with key stakeholders, are currently developing the draft law on personal data protection for the private sector.
The draft law aims to govern the collection, use and disclosure of individuals’ personal data by organisations, while recognising the rights of individuals to protect their personal data and the needs of organisations to collect, use or disclose personal data for reasonable purposes. Also in the pipeline is the corporatisation of the Postal Services Department which is currently under MTIC. The Postal Services Department will be corporatised in 2021 and the postal regulatory functions will be transferred to AITI.
In the wake of COVID-19, AITI has taken several initiatives to support the nation. One of them is the ICT devices donation drive to support online learning, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC). The donation drive ran from April 12, 2020 until May 14, 2020 where 1,482 devices were received. The devices were refurbished to meet the prescribed minimum specification and were then distributed by MoE to students in need.
AITI and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) launched eKadaiBrunei.bn on April 1, 2020. eKadaiBrunei.bn is an online directory portal that connects users to e-commerce platforms, delivery and logistics service providers. It also provides a link to the One Kampong One Product (1K1P) official website, where the public can purchase various local products online. This portal also allows micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to look for e-commerce platforms to host their products and services.
As a precautionary measure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, AITI activated its Business Continuity Plan (BCP). To ensure business can carry on as usual with minimal impact, customers can access services via the AITI Online Portal at online.aiti.gov.bn. Templates and guides for customers were provided to address common inquiries such as account registration and online payments. Customers can also contact the AITI Customer Services Unit via a WhatsApp line at 863 5298 for a faster response time on any queries, during office hours.
AITI looks forward to launching AITI Mobile Apps which will incorporate selected AITI services to enhance customers’ experience and provide convenience at their fingertips in the near future.
Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) is an organisation wholly owned by His Majesty’s Government and is recognised as a governmentlinked company under Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd.
On September 1, 2019, UNN officially took over all network infrastructure operated by the existing telecommunications service providers. Since its establishment, UNN has been actively making the effort to expand the telecommunications infrastructure in the country.
In August 2020, it was announced that UNN is working with stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) and Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) to evaluate the introduction of a 5G network.
According to UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler, the demand for 5G is low as few people own 5G compatible mobile phones which tend to have a higher cost. He highlighted the importance of introducing 5G to the country. Given that it is not feasible to allocate too many resources to meet the demand of the few, the focus is on customers using 3G and 4G networks.
Meanwhile, the current implementation on 4G+ and LTE is going towards the preparation for a 5G network.
UNN is also looking into providing and improving fixed network services for difficult areas such as water villages. Dr Oehler said UNN is evaluating fibre infrastructure for houses in Kampong Ayer.
From January to July 2020, 16,358 customer connections were completed. This includes 12,272 connections in Brunei-Muara District, 2,404 in Belait District, 1,503 in Tutong District and 179 in Temburong District.
The Fibre to the Home (FTTH) network was expanded to include an additional 2,744 connection points – 946 in Tutong District and 1,798 in other districts.
UNN is also focussing its spotlight on cybersecurity. The CEO shared that UNN is building a Cyber Defence Centre to protect all digital service, data interfaces, communication and product systems of UNN from domestic and foreign threats.
In September 2020, UNN began a 30-month project to expand the mobile Radio Access Network (RAN).
The RAN project includes the consolidation of the tower infrastructure previously managed by DST and Progresif and the deployment of 120 new sites to increase coverage in rural areas and capacity in densely populated areas.
Since announcing its launch in December 2019, and officially providing telecommunications services encompassing broadband, mobile and bundle plans from January 24, 2020, imagine over the past 12 months has gone on to achieve a number of milestones, cementing presence in Brunei’s telecommunications industry.
Aimed at providing Bruneians with more telco service options including mobile prepaid and postpaid as well as value-added services for corporate and enterprise clients, imagine was formed following a transformation in the industry to meet the ever-increasing demand for data connectivity as the nation continues towards digitalisation.
For this year, imagine will adopt and aims to fulfill another benchmark that involves the evolution of broadband consumption in the country as part of the national agenda.
With sights set on improving Internet service experience within households and businesses, imagine CEO Suzannawati binti Haji Suharju explained that the company will leverage on improvements in Brunei’s network infrastructure that can now support higher bandwidth for the average household where the speed can reach 50Mbps and higher.
Coupled with more value data packages imagine has to offer, this improved service speed brings possibilities of enhancements to everyday living and user experience. Encouraging the use of such speeds among the average user would elevate Brunei’s position as a developing nation, thus propelling the country onto a more competitive international platform.
“By encouraging the use of high-speed Internet where we aim to encourage the use of over 50Mbps among majority of the population, we will be on par with many of our regional and international counterparts whose economies and societies are thriving thanks to the adoption of high-speed broadband,” said Suzanna.
Following imagine’s Smart Home launch in 2020 and in line with the country’s Smart Nation initiative, imagine strives to deliver quality service as a telco provider towards realising Brunei Vision 2035’s digital aspiration, and together explore what can be achieved as a society with high-speed Internet.
Among others, the adoption of high-speed Internet translates to a number of improvements such as the sharing of information more efficiently, helping small businesses expand their reach, improving online education, strengthening trade connections at home and overseas, and better exploration of healthcare improvements in general. When Brunei experienced the effects of COVID-19 last year, the telecommunications industry saw the rise of Internet use among households where students and office workers had to adapt to the new normal that required higher-speed connectivity to stay connected either with work or school.
“While we may appreciate restrictions have been lifted, there is still need to maintain this form of high-bandwidth access as we continue to use online platforms to stay connected with our counterparts, friends and family from outside the country.”
Imagine now offers affordable plans that can be adapted to changing circumstances that are competitive and carry more data at faster speeds that suit every household and business. Imagine also offers bundled plans for broadband, mobile postpaid as well as Smart Devices where customers can reap the benefits of being connected at affordable rates.
Additionally, “In this day and age, we believe that all Bruneians should be given the opportunity to be connected to the Internet both at home and on the move as we believe that connectivity services are no longer a thing of luxury as it once was but rather a necessity that should be made accessible regardless of social class or financial background,” said Suzanna.
Apart from offering affordable home plans, imagine’s Business Connect portfolio offers a range of competitive plans for micro, small and medium enterprise (MSMEs) and bigger companies regardless of industry with other value-added services that can complement any type of operations. This is made stronger through imagine’s initiatives by bringing in international partners.
In its first year in 2020, the company expanded its list of partners that started with a signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia-based ICT solutions provider Strateq Global whose team of global expertise has made its mark in the country.
Earlier this year, imagine also signed with Ensign Infosecurity based in Singapore with a dedicated team of cybersecurity experts that can propel Brunei as a competitive hub for foreign direct investments (FDIs).
“We continue to explore other international partners whose vision to digitalise economies are aligned with ours. As we head towards the digitalisation of Brunei’s economy, we want to create a market that is hungry to see what the future holds, and we at imagine realise that we have a role to play to bring in the latest the world has to offer,” concluded Suzanna.
It has been a year since DST had shifted their brand to Datastream Digital Sdn Bhd on January 24, 2020. DST is now committed to become a more customer-focussed operator providing mobile, fixed broadband and various digital services with brand-new and revamped products and services: Easi, Mobi, Freedom and Infinity. Throughout the year 2020, DST had achieved several milestones to grasp the concept of Limitless Connectivity, Everywhere.
Back in February 2020, DST launched an Innovation Lab (InnoLab) to foster more innovative and productive individuals for the future communities. InnoLab is a space built for the community, specifically for the youth, businesses and government to nurture their creativity and innovative ideas.
The InnoLab has Innovate@Programs that specifically caters to graduates, businesses and government bodies. The programmes are Innovate@Uni: Catalyst, Innovate@ Biz: Innovate or Get Left Behind, Innovate@ Biz: Market Access, Innovate@Biz: Industry 4.0, and Innovate@Gov: Innovate with the Government.
DST kicked off the Innovate@Uni: Catalyst programme together with their academic partner, Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and their entrepreneurship partner, Darussalam Enterprise (DARe).
The Innovate@Uni: Catalyst is designed specifically to meet the needs of final-year university students and graduates. It is a programme which gives the students an opportunity to be exposed to entrepreneurship, create their own employment and develop innovative products.
DST has partnered with a solutions company as an initiative to strengthen DST’s core into the realm of digital transformation and innovation in Brunei Darussalam.
This partnership will complement DST in continuing its digital transformation journey in enhancing digital customer experience to provide a better smart lifestyle and supporting the Brunei Government’s Smart Nation objectives, such as supporting paperless transactions and streamline government processes.
This will enable and empower DST to fully explore and exploit the possibilities of enhancing their service offerings beyond the traditional telecommunication service providers’ standard services.
DST is looking forward to collaborating with other leading digital key players in Brunei and abroad to build and integrate further the digital platforms outside of telecommunications.
In October 2020, DST launched InnoConnect, a modular, easy-to-use, and a secure data exchange platform. It is a digital highway allowing access to services seamlessly and in real time. DST understands that in this new digital age, everything is all about convenience, accessibility and getting connected anytime, anywhere.
Getting connected to services with just a few clicks of a button is the ultimate convenience and is of great importance to everyone. With InnoConnect, services can be delivered better with minimal duplication of efforts, users can make better use of data, and most importantly the services can be accessed digitally. InnoConnect allows its users to share the right information seamlessly while at the same time protecting the data securely.
InnoConnect allows DST to support the public and private sectors to enable seamless connectivity, interoperability and portability across complex ecosystem-based services. The platform transforms how individuals, businesses and service providers interact with each other, making it easier to reach out to all Bruneians.
Aside from the digital advancement and innovation initiatives, DST has introduced two major campaigns for their customers to enjoy: the Supersized Campaign and Easi Everything Campaign.
The Supersized campaign was a three-month long campaign from May until July, where DST Supersized their products and services: Easi, Mobi, Freedom and Infinity.
DST Supersized their add-on data packages for Easi, created more Supersized bundles for their Mobi, Supersized their Freedom experience and Supersized their Infinity’s data quota.
The Easi Everything Campaign was introduced towards the end of 2020 to bring value and convenience to all DST subscribers, starting with the existing and new Easi subscribers with offering them more data, more value and much more. The year 2020 was definitely the year for DST to remember always. DST aims to continue to provide Limitless Connectivity, Everywhere to create convenience and value through a leading digital lifestyle ecosystem for the people of Brunei.
Following the telco industry transformation, Progresif Sdn Bhd launched its new mobile and home broadband packages in early 2020, with numerous activities planned to build and maintain momentum.
However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei Darussalam proved to be a challenge, with Progresif needing to rally together and come up with a different approach, said Progresif CEO Hajah Nurul Haniah binti Haji Mohd Jaafar. With restrictions in place and more people staying at home, she said that it was an opportunity for Progresif to accelerate their digital transformation and improve their customers’ online experience. Enabling its customers to purchase and register online proved to be a great success, said the CEO.
In response to the increasing demand for home broadband, Progresif launched their One Home plans enabling customers to choose a monthly data quota and perform inexpensive data top-ups anytime they like. Progresif also introduced Home Unlimited plans with higher quotas and bandwidths.
With the influx of queries through their call centres and social media platforms, Progresif had to expand their team and centres, as well as re-purpose its people for faster response times. “It has built resiliency for all of us,” she said, commending the Progresif team who gave their all during the hard times to overcome the challenges.
Since its launch in 2015, Progresif has achieved a number of firsts and milestones in the telco industry. “We started the brand not just because we liked that name, but because it stands for everything we believe in,” said the CEO.
She added that Progresif is always evolving and transforming, living up to its name. In 2014, they were the first to introduce incoming free calls and offer flat call rates to other networks.
In 2017, Progresif launched Brunei’s first Internet radio station. “We didn’t start this just to try out the digital and media path, but because we wanted to be a partner to our subscribers. We want to support the creative industry and showcase their talents so we brought them on board and produced some albums and featured them in our magazine,” said Hajah Nurul Haniah.
With this foray into the media space, progress did not stop there. In August 2020 they launched Progresif Media, Brunei’s first content streaming app. “It was a bold, but logical extension to Progresif Media,” the CEO said.
“We saw the need for a platform where local creators could showcase their work alongside the best regional and Hollywood content, and receive revenue from it too.” Hajah Nurul Haniah also expressed the hope that by spearheading the growth of a digital media and creative industry, Progresif could help to lessen the burden of youth unemployment.
Another one of their major milestones was the launch of Progresif Pay in 2018 in partnership with Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam with over 28,000 users to date. The CEO said they are looking at evolving the app this year, on top of previous initiatives launched for cashless campuses with higher education institutions. In addition to its innovative products and services, Progresif has also been recognised for its strong brand. In 2016 and 2018, Progresif won an award for its brand campaign. “This to me is quite an accomplishment and recognition of the work of the team we built,” said the CEO.
With regard to corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, one of Progresif’s focus areas is contributing to the education sector across the country.
“The youth are our future leaders and we need to equip them with right tools and platform,” she said. In 2020, Progresif signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to improve connectivity and provide better access to online learning. Progresif is also excited to introduce a new CSR initiative this year, known as the Donate Data campaign, where Progresif equips 10 schools with high-speed broadband, and enables the public to join the cause by donating data via SMS donations to help schools have better connectivity, said the CEO.
Together with MoE, Progresif is also working on skill-sharing and cross-training with programmes with teachers and offering career advice to students in collaboration with professionals from several industries.
She highlighted that Progresif is more than just about products and services, and that CSR is a large part of the company. “It is in our DNA because if the community thrives, we thrive, and our customers will be happy to see that their dollars spent with us also goes back to building the community.”
With stronger competition within the telco industry, Hajah Nurul Haniah said they are striving to deliver customers better value for money, making sure that anyone who spends with Progresif enjoys uncompromised services and a full ecosystem of digital products that make life better.
“Of course,” the CEO added, “improving upon customer experience is one of our main priorities and we’ll continue to dedicate a lot of time and effort towards progress in this area”.
“It might not be immediate but it’s a journey and that journey is something customers should definitely look forward to,” she said. One way in which the brand has already begun this has been their retail transformation, aiming to ‘go to the customer’ instead of the other way around. So far, Progresif has launched ‘Street Teams’ and pop-up stores to become accessible in more areas.
Aside from improving customer experience, the CEO also mentioned Progresif’s plans of working with various online marketplaces. This will further help the business ecosystem grow while also complementing their products and services.
The CEO also shared its plans to expand Progresif Events this year, an online booking platform that enables users to view events happening in Brunei and purchase e-tickets online. Progresif Events first launched in 2019, but it has slowed down since the onset of the pandemic and is underutilised at the moment.
As the country gears towards achieving its goals to be a Smart Nation and achieving its Digital Economy Masterplan in 2025, she said it is important to look from the most basic and simple things to improve the quality of our day-to-day life.
“We’re all gearing towards the same objective, to give end users more time in their hands because everything else is done either digitally or automatically. So, to be a Smart Nation, it takes a whole-of-nation approach not just from the government and industry, but also the citizens in ensuring it is realised,” said the CEO.
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