While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 posed unprecedented challenges globally, it also accelerated ICT adoption creating new opportunities. Like many other countries, Brunei saw a favourable growth rate and significant reforms in terms of infrastructure especially in the information and telecommunications technology industry.
Notching a new milestone in August 2022, the Manpower Industry Steering Committee Working Group for ICT Sector (MISC-WG ICT) launched the Brunei ICT Industry Competency Framework (BIICF).
The framework was prepared by the BIICF working group, together with the Competencies Development Technical Group of the MISC-WG ICT comprising representatives from the government, industry, institutes of higher learning and training providers.
Developed to support Brunei Vision 2035 and Digital Economy Masterplan 2025, BIICF aims to ensure local ICT professionals have the competencies to perform their jobs, and to guide them with skills aligned with the industry’s needs.
The framework has identified 79 technical and soft skills competencies for 20 job roles across six sub- sectors of the ICT industry – IT services; telecommunications and network; applications and solutions development; ICT security; digital media; and data and artificial intelligence.
IT technician, systems engineer, applications developer, solutions architect, data analyst, data engineer, cyber risk analyst and security engineer were identified as critical job roles with high demand. This is based on the findings from the ICT manpower survey and stakeholder’s engagement held by MISC-WG ICT with the industry in 2020.
Developed to support Brunei Vision 2035 and Digital Economy Masterplan 2025, BIICF aims to ensure local ICT professionals have the competencies to perform their jobs, and to guide them with the required skills aligned with the industry’s needs.
Key information provided in the BIICF includes job titles, functional group, job description, critical work function, entry requirements, required technical competencies and soft skills with proficiency level, and recommended technical training courses. The framework serves as a comprehensive guide on ICT industry job roles, skills and competency requirements, which provide a valuable and practical reference for stakeholders – industry, academia, government, professional individuals, students and training providers for career planning, development, training and certifications.
In boosting digital connectivity, the Brunei telecommunications industry in August 2022 activated the Broadband Uplift programme aimed at raising the fixed broadband baseline speed for subscribers to at least 50Mbps. The initiative is driven by telecommunication service providers Datastream Digital Sdn Bhd (DST), imagine Sdn Bhd and Progresif Sdn Bhd, supported by Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI), Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd and Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) to champion the nation’s progress towards transforming Brunei into a Smart Nation, aligned with the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025 and Brunei Vision 2035.
The Brunei telecommunications industry’s objective is to ensure that the country, and its population, achieve meaningful digital connectivity and elevate the nation to global standards. The July 2022 Global Median Speed reports from Ookla indicated Brunei is at number 99 globally with its fixed broadband median speed.
The Authority for Infocommunications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) is a statutory body responsible for the country’s telecommunications and radiocommunications regulation; radiofrequency spectrum planning and management; and ICT industry development.
As the country pursues its agenda for digital transformation towards a Smart Nation, several initiatives have been implemented by AITI to support the country in achieving this goal. Earlier this year, AITI awarded Unified National Networks (UNN) with Spectrum Rights for the 3400 – 3500 MHz spectrum band with a total bandwidth of 100 MHz. The spectrum band is for the use of 5G mobile service deployment in Brunei Darussalam.
AITI is currently exploring 5G use cases in hotspot areas including educational and public places. In this context, AITI is also collaborating with Universiti Teknologi Brunei to nurture the development of as well as showcase 5G use case applications and initiatives such as remote augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications and Smart Campus.
With a 5G ecosystem set in place in the country, it will unlock a broad range of opportunities for every industry and business including safer and more innovative transportation, remote healthcare and digitised logistics. In an effort to narrow the digital divide in rural areas, AITI and UNN are collaborating to modernise and optimise its network infrastructure. This initiative will facilitate the nationwide deployment of mobile 5G and FTTH services in the underserved areas. Four mobile towers will be established in Kampong Long Mayan, Kampong Sukang, Kampong Melilas, and Kampong Bang Taong with fibre cabling infrastructure being planned and implemented to enable access to FTTH services. These actions will ensure that rural communities have access to reliable and high-speed Internet services, which is a crucial step towards bridging the digital gap.
To encourage faster adoption of new technologies such as smart IoT devices, AITI recently made amendments on the regulations and processes governing the importation and approval of telecommunications and radiocommunications equipment. Providing more alternatives for Dealer Type Approval validity period, as well as allowing importation of Bluetooth-Only devices relieved from Type Approval fees, are some of the regulation changes made.
AITI has also made the process in gaining permits and approval more seamless by enabling submission of applications either through the AITI online services portal (online.aiti.gov. bn) or AITI Mobile app.
As part of the country’s digital transformation journey, AITI has been making efforts to support the ICT sector’s growth. The Manpower Industry Steering Committee Working Group for ICT Sector (MISC-WG ICT) with AITI as Secretariat, marked a new milestone on August 3, 2022 with the launch of the Brunei ICT Industry Competency Framework (BIICF).
BIICF was developed to support Brunei Vision 2035 and the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025 for manpower and talent development. The framework provides a national standard for ICT job roles including the competencies needed to perform various ICT job roles and serves as a comprehensive guide for ICT occupations, certifications and training based on industry demands. A total of 20 ICT job roles with 79 technical competencies and 11 soft skills competencies have been developed within the framework.
Individuals wishing to build their skills in the ICT field may apply for the Digital Upskilling Training Programme 2.0 by AITI. Participants will also be equipped with globally-recognised professional industry ICT certification as well as increasing employment opportunities for local youth job seekers. To date, more than 300 locals comprising existing workforce and job seekers have participated.
This year’s initiatives also include Digital for All, a programme to educate people about digital literacy and basic ICT skills; and Coding with Smart Devices for Schools, which will be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE). On February 15, 2023, the second cohort of Coding. bn was launched to train local youth in programming.
While supporting the Smart Nation aspirations and ICT industry development, AITI also contributes to the local broadcasting content industry’s growth. In 2022, AITI hosted the first ever Brunei Content Festival (BCF). The BCF competition is a platform to recognise Bruneian content creators, producers, directors and filmmakers as part of AITI’s efforts to stimulate innovation and creativity in content creation. Following the event’s success, a second competition is slated to be held in the second quarter of 2023.
Other initiatives implemented by AITI include NADI.bn, an open data platform with access to industry datasets; smart aquafarm and smart farming; Tech Immersion Programme; the Productivity and Efficiency Joint Funding for Digital Adoption scheme (PENJANA) and Tech Clinic for MSMEs; and the Digital Assessment Readiness Portal.
In the pipeline is an ICT manpower portal with up-to-date ICT related information in Brunei Darussalam such as job opportunities, competencies, trainings, career prospects, local professional talents, projects and expat permits.
Moving forward, AITI is currently working together with the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft a new Personal Data Protection law in Brunei Darussalam. The upcoming legislation aims to establish a comprehensive data protection framework for private sector organisations and a baseline standard of protection for individuals’ personal data.
AITI has since gathered feedback on the type of guidance which organisations may require in preparation on the upcoming law. Public awareness activities will be conducted to ensure organisations are aware of their upcoming obligations in the collection, use and disclosure of personal data and the rights of individuals to protect their personal data.
As AITI celebrated its 20th anniversary on January 1, 2023, AITI will continue to strive towards achieving the vision of transforming Brunei Darussalam into a Connected Smart Nation through the development of a thriving digital industry, a connected nation and a digitally-enriched society.
Established in 2018, Unified National Networks (UNN) is a wholly government owned organisation recognised as a government-linked company under Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd, offering wholesale telecommunication services to both national and international clients. UNN officially took over all network infrastructure operated by (then) telecommunication providers – DST, TelBru, Progresif and Brunei International Gateway (BIG) – in September 2019 to consolidate and modernise all the transferred networks.
The consolidation has allowed UNN to modernise and protect Brunei’s networking infrastructure, allowing them to better deliver highly resilient and quality services across the nation. With digital transformation being a key strategic imperative of the government as it looks to build a future-ready society and to further fuel economic growth, UNN’s advancement is crucial to Brunei’s digital and economic success. UNN has announced plans to invest up to BND85 million (USD60 million) as part of a consortium of telecommunication companies in a new submarine cable connecting Singapore to Hong Kong.
The Asia Link Cable (ALC) will be approximately 6,000 kilometres in length and construction is expected to be finished by the third quarter of 2025. The main trunk connecting Singapore to Hong Kong will have branches into Brunei Darussalam, the Hainan province in China and the Philippines. Other members of the consortium are China Telecom Global Limited (CTG), Globe Telecom Inc and DITO Telecommunity Corporation, and Singapore Telecommunications Limited (Singtel).
According to UNN, the ALC will adopt an open cable system architecture to reduce dependency on any single provider consortium partners and expedite the capacity upgrade process in serving internal and customer requirements. Therefore, individual members of the consortium could select the best equipment independently from each other depending on their requirements and preferences.
With strategic locations and bullish digital growth prospects in mind, there has been an increase of interest to interconnect in the trans-Asian region, enriching the infrastructures for prospective customers. The ALC will help enhance the existing facilities in catering future requirements in the region.
UNN is also in the final stages of completing full modernisation of its whole infrastructure to be 5G-ready. The modernisation through Radio Access Network (RAN) expansion and broadband network upgrade will increase the capacity to manage the growing traffic and data volume as well as improve customer experience in Brunei Darussalam. 5G services will have the potential to improve productivity, enhance virtual experience and achieve digitalisation towards becoming a Smart Nation.
Three years since its establishment, imagine Sdn Bhd has moved on from the mindset of a start-up to now expanding its business portfolio and services beyond connectivity.
The company is steadily cementing its position in the mobile market as it continues to churn out better products and services and as a provider for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that can help them grow.
CEO of imagine Sdn Bhd Suzanna Suharju with officers and staff of imagine at the launch of their new loyalty programme.
In an interview, imagine Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Suzanna Suharju reaffirmed the company’s strategy to be the telco provider that’s best for families and communities. The company is always looking for ways to engage with its customers to obtain feedback that can help determine the kind of products and services it can help provide.
“We’re anticipating seeing significant development in our product offerings for the year ahead, with the steady rollout of faster bandwidth for fibre and 5G technology,“ said the CEO.
With the constantly evolving technology, imagine ensures to continuously adapt to the transformation while ensuring the quality of its products and services. Using data analytics and based on the local demand, imagine introduces products and services to improve its customer’s quality of life.
“Things like mesh WiFi, home security and our promotions featuring the latest mobile phones are a result of feedback from our customers. All this supports our approach to being ‘Best for Family’,” said Suzanna.
As for its Enterprise business clients, imagine is more geared to helping them manage their business. Imagine has partnered with international and local companies to bring solutions and services such as device protection service and cyber security, going beyond connectivity.
This shows how high imagine values collaborations and partnerships not just from international players but also in terms of supporting the local ecosystem.
“Our customers are at the forefront of our business strategy, so we understand and appreciate the role that we play in achieving Brunei Vision 2035 and making Brunei a Smart Nation,” said Suzanna.
The CEO also shared several exciting milestones in the past year. For its business and enterprise clients, imagine signed partnerships with several local service providers offering solutions to improving workplace efficiency. This includes ULap Networks for cloud-based voice solutions, Beyond Tomorrow for network monitoring solutions and Nextacloud for app development services.
With these partners, imagine also hosted its inaugural Step-Up Conference in November last year, where its clients and partners could engage and discuss solutions for their organisations.
In support of its retail customers, imagine was the first to launch the gaming bundle to the market. Imagine also recently launched its loyalty programme and Get-It mobile app for its retail customers. Though imagine subscribers reap the fullest benefits through this service, non-imagine subscribers may also access the app to earn points that can be redeemed for rewards.
“Our loyalty programme is a much anticipated service as we believe it is a way for us to show appreciation to our customers and remind them that it pays to be an imagine customer,” said the CEO.
Imagine Sdn Bhd Director Allen On and Netcom Chief Executive Officer Vincent Goh officiate the launch of the Game Fest.
Sharing her thoughts on the telco industry, the CEO expressed her gratitude and said Brunei is well-equipped across all sectors and industries. “We can see the constant developments made in the nation and understand the vital role communication plays in any organisation. Telecommunications truly is the backbone in any new technology introduced to a nation.” As imagine expects improvements in the country’s network infrastructure, imagine is committed to working closely with the government and private sector stakeholders to introduce new technologies and modern solutions to improve their work process.
According to the CEO, imagine’s plans and aspirations for this year remain the same as they always have been since its launch in 2020 – to continue providing accessible and affordable broadband, mobile and bundle plans, and introduce value-add services for its residential and enterprise customers.
“We stand by our strategy to position ourselves as the telco that’s best for home, best for family, and remain committed in helping our customers embrace a digital future,” said Suzanna.
Imagine will continue engaging with its customers in shaping and improving its product offerings, in addition to supporting the government, private sector clients and MSMES in achieving their goals. Imagine is here to support local start-ups and innovate together, she said.
“It’s been an interesting journey for the last three years. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the brave and inspiring imagineers who make it happen and also to our customers who have been loyal to us. We look forward to continue to support you,” said the CEO. “Together we can meet and realise our Brunei Vision 2035!”
Datastream Digital Sdn Bhd (DST) has undergone a major shift in branding and concept from Limitless Connectivity, Everywhere to Digitalising Everyone. As a true digitalco, DST is committed to innovation and creating value for its customers.
Moving forward to 2023, DST will take a closer look at its goals for 2023, including expanding partnerships, developing new innovations and revamping its telco products to better serve its customers.
Back in January 2022, DST took a major step towards enhancing their customer service by expanding their sales channels to include multiple avenues for consumers to access the services provided.
This includes the introduction of a dedicated sales hotline – 16888, where customers are able to contact a sales representative directly via call; an option to connect via WhatsApp at 8616888; as well as partnering with dealers to make services like registering and paying bills more easily accessible to the public at their stores.
The exchange of the signed agreement between DST CEO Radin Sufri bin Radin Basiuni and Multisys CEO Victor Aliwalas witnessed by Brunei Investment Agency Acting Managing Director Haji Sofian bin Haji Mohammad Jani.
Building towards being a digitalco, DST further enhanced the features on their MyDST app.
The highlight of the launch was to show users that the MyDST app has been levelled up with more features that they could use to their convenience. The enhanced digital experience includes the activation of IDD and roaming; upgrading their plan; getting a SIM replacement; subscribing to the MultiSIM service; and saving their card. With the MyDST app, customers can access DST’s services seamlessly anytime, anywhere.
Brunei Innovation Lab: Creating a thriving ecosystem for digital innovation
DST partnered with Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Shell LiveWire Brunei (LiveWIRE) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) to launch the Brunei Innovation Lab (BIL), a local ecosystem that brings together developers, start-ups, enterprises, academia and government institutions to focus on digital innovation, located at Knowledge Hub (kHUB).
Optimising online gaming performance with DST WTFast
Expanding their collaborations with partners overseas Radian Arc and WTFast, DST launched the first gaming private network (GPN) in Brunei – DST WTFast. The product of the partnership is to optimise the online gaming performances by providing the quickest routes via intelligent gaming networks, decreasing ping and jitter for players.
Intellectual property development and commercialisation of a digital platform
DST entered into a joint software development with Multisys Technologies Corporation (Multisys) to create digital platforms that support Brunei’s digital economy objectives. The partnership with Multisys involves around 15 local DST developers and aims to help DST become a digitalfirst company with a focus on digital customer experience, faster time to market and scalability.
DST did not forget to provide the best products and services for their current and future customers. Throughout 2022 and going into 2023, DST has supersized the data for their Easi, Mobi, Freedom and Infinity plans; upgraded their Infinity plans’ speed with SuperSpeed – 100Mbps; launched their first gaming add-on – DST WTFast; and introduced Banar2 Unlimited Infinity plans along with an Infinity SuperSpeed add-on.
DST’s transformation from a telco to a digitalco is well underway with the company taking significant steps to achieve their objectives. Through expanding their reach, enhancing their digital experiences, expanding partnerships and upgrading their telco base products, DST is well-positioned to become a true digital-first company that provides exceptional value to their customers.
With their commitment to innovation and digital transformation, DST is contributing to Brunei’s digital economy objectives and providing better public service not only in Brunei but also in the entire region. There will be further advancements to look forward to from DST as they continue to strive towards their vision of ‘Digitising Everyone’.
True to its name, Progresif Sdn Bhd strives to help its customers experience the joy of a connected, inspired and progressive life. Progresif is a company powered by people with heart and always strives for better rather than settling for good.
Since its transition in 2020, Progresif has grown into more than just a telecommunications/sales company in Brunei serving over 200,000 customers and clients. Progresif recently opened its seventh store in Belait District, further expanding its presence in the country.
The company also celebrated several other milestones including the launch of the Progresif Care+ app which won an award in the Asia Communication Awards 2022 and for a second year in a row, won Mobile Operator of the Year and Marketing and Brand Initiative of the Year for Brunei in the Asian Telecommunication Awards 2023.
Making a name for itself in the Enterprise space serving the corporate segment, Progresif most recently launched its Enterprise Xperience Centre (EXC), a managed service for enterprise solutions catering for large organisations as part of its Progresif Enterprise offering.
Progresif recently introduced its latest mobile plan, Just Data. This innovative offering is tailored to meet the needs of individuals who require mobile Internet access without the additional features of voice calls or text. Just Data is an affordable and convenient option for users who want to enjoy an unparalleled mobile experience while maximising their Internet usage on the go. Additionally, customers can opt to bundle the plan with a MiFi device on a 12-month contract, making it a flexible and convenient solution. For a limited time, the first 100 sign-ups will receive double or triple data in their first three months.
In September 2022, Progresif launched new fibre broadband plans, in line with the national objective of improving connectivity across the nation. Progresif phased out its 20Mbps plans by providing free upgrades to its 50Mbps and 100Mbps plans, allowing their new and existing customers to have a better user experience. The company also introduced new Home WiFi Plans where customers can expect double home WiFi speeds up to 200Mbps at a lower price. Progresif Home WiFi subscribers who use data for work, studying, streaming and gaming will receive a speed boost and increased data allowance.
In addition to faster speeds, customers will also receive greater coverage with Progresif’s exclusive free WiFi 6 router bundle for new signups. The latest generation of WiFi 6 routers, combined with a Progresif Home Fibre, will allow for smoother gaming and streaming across multiple devices and less buffering and congestion.
Progresif Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hajah Nurul Haniah binti Haji Jaafar said, “We are prepared to respond to the nation’s call for progress and become the provider of choice.” With the Progresif Fibre speed uplift, Progresif offers greater value and control, allowing customers the freedom to do more with their time and money. “The Progresif home WiFi bundle with the Free WiFi 6 router will give our customers bigger data, better options, faster speed, and stronger connectivity, bringing Brunei a step closer to becoming a connected and smart nation,” said the CEO.
Progresif announced the launch of Progresif Care+ last year to provide customers with access to their accounts through the Progresif Care+ website and mobile app. The app’s development establishes the telco’s progress towards digital transformation and reinforces its commitment to providing a customer service experience revolutionised through technology.
The app has an updated dashboard that offers a plan breakdown overview of the account and seamlessly links multiple numbers into one account. Progresif customers will also have direct access to new products and promotions through the Care+ app.
Bill payments are now simpler through the app as it offers the option of saving card details securely. These convenient features give subscribers the freedom to manage their accounts on the go. The enhanced Care+ gives a better level of convenience for Progresif customers, catering to their needs beyond connectivity. With the ‘Buy it or Gift It’ function in the Care+ app, customers can do more than just buy traditional telco products.
Customers can now purchase gift vouchers which they can buy for themselves or gift it to others and have the amount deducted from their prepaid credit or charged to their monthly bill. Progresif also intends to onboard many more local businesses in the hopes of creating a platform to help spur social and economic activity.
In addition to empowering customers with tools to thrive in the digital age, Progresif also aims to help its customers maintain their privacy and security.
Progresif recently announced a new exclusive partnership with NordVPN, known internationally for being one of the fastest virtual private network (VPN) services to combat the rising cases of security breaches. NordVPN will be available as a new bundled product through Progresif Care+ app, online store and physical stores. Customers who subscribe to the Progresif Fibre plan bundle and the MORE plan will receive a complimentary NordVPN service for one year.
As one of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) pillars, Progresif has been continuously supporting the growth of the arts and culture sector in Brunei over the years.
Progresif supports local creators with its online streaming app Progresif Media, featuring content from homegrown creators. Since its relaunch in September 2021, the app has expanded into 27 countries and garnered more than 4,000 users globally. The subscription-based platform takes pride in being the ‘Home of Bruneian Content’, which includes short films, series, music and podcasts.
In supporting local content creators, the platform aims to provide fresh content to local and global audiences with new content releases and live radio shows every week. One of the initiatives in which Progresif Media has been involved is the Pitch and Produce programme supported by the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI), which allows content creators to produce and publish short films, series, and other content alike.
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