The country’s telecoms and infocommunications landscape has undergone several major developments over the past few years. In 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.
Another major development took place the following year, with the country’s telecommunications network infrastructure 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 three telco companies launched new products and service packages in early 2020, and consumers were advised to do their due diligence before subscribing to a different product or switching to a different service provider.
The Sultanate through MTIC has targetted
to achieve 75 per cent of home Internet subscription by 2025, in addition to enhancing broadband connectivity.
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.
Since the merger of the telecommunications network infrastructure under UNN, several improvements have been introduced such as increasing fixed broadband data capacity to facilitate online learning when the pandemic broke out in 2020. In addition, over 25,000 new customer connections were established from January to December 2020.
UNN also embarked on a project to expand the mobile Radio Access Network (RAN), which 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.
Another development in the telco industry is the 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.
During the ICT Ministerial Meeting on December 1, 2021, it was shared that over 75 per cent of households in Brunei have Internet subscription, indicating the nation’s digitalisation progress since the COVID-19 outbreak. The Sultanate through MTIC has targetted to achieve 75 per cent of home Internet subscription by 2025, in addition to enhancing broadband connectivity through 5G pilot projects and 5G talent development.
As of September 2021, almost 80,000 fixed broadband subscribers were recorded, equivalent to 75.2 per cent of the nation’s households. This is further complemented by 135.7 per cent of mobile broadband penetration among the population.
The Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry (AITI) is a statutory body responsible for the country’s telecommunications and radiocommunications regulation; radiofrequency spectrum planning and management; and ICT industry development.
In June 2021, AITI Strategic Plan 2020- 2025 was released which establishes AITI’s vision, missions, strategic goals and strategic objectives. Its development is to support the realisation of outcomes in the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025. Under AITI’s vision to transform Brunei Darussalam into a Connected Smart Nation, AITI Strategic Plan aims to deliver three strategic outcomes: A Thriving Digital Industry, a Connected Nation and a Digitally Enriched Society. The strategic plan reshapes AITI’s approach in reaching out to people by partnering with key players in the industry and the community to ensure impactful progress with the right set of programmes.
In order to assist the unemployed youth
to become more employable and industry-ready, AITI has introduced the Coding.bn programme to provide coding or programming training.
In April 2021, the 5G Pilot Project was launched through collaboration between the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC), AITI and Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN), to support the strategic objectives and priorities under the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025.
The 5G pilot project also aims to demonstrate 5G Proof-of-Concept network environments, promote the value of high-speed 5G mobile communications and create awareness in accelerating 5G adoption. 5G commercial deployment is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2022, with a target of 75 per cent population coverage by 2025. AITI’s mobilisation efforts towards the commercial 5G launch include the commissioning of a 5G pilot project to support the development of 5G use cases and also the release of new frequency bands for 5G technology.
As the country undergoes digital transformation towards a Smart Nation, digital skills have become increasingly part of every job. Skills related to IR 4.0 such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G ecosystem development will lift digital capabilities in the workforce. One such initiative is the 5G Upskilling Programme to equip the local ICT workforce with future digital skills that will enable them to deliver innovative products and services, and contribute to the digital economy.
In order to assist the unemployed youth to become more employable and industry-ready, AITI has introduced the Coding.bn program to provide coding or programming training. Cohort 1, consisted of 59 participants, completed the six-month programme which started in March 2021. Successful participants have been employed at the host companies.
To facilitate digital industry development and innovation in Brunei Darussalam, AITI has partnered with Beep Digital Solutions to launch the Cashless Society pilot programme. This pilot programme aspires to improve business efficiency and productivity by adopting digital payment solutions and provide seamless cashless transactions experience. The three types of businesses targeted under this pilot programme are laundromats, retail or convenience stores, and paid parking.
Following the second wave of COVID-19 in Brunei Darussalam, AITI has taken several steps to alleviate the impact of the pandemic and one of them was the re-introduction of the ICT devices donation campaign to support online learning in collaboration with Ministry of Education (MoE) and MTIC.
AITI has also initiated the drafting of a personal data protection law to set out a general framework for data protection for the private sector in Brunei Darussalam. The Personal Data Protection Order (PDPO) is targeted to be enacted in late 2022.
Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN) is a government-linked company under Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd. In 2019, UNN officially took over all network infrastructure operated by the existing telecommunications service providers. Since then, UNN has been actively making the effort to expand the telecommunications infrastructure in the country.
UNN provides local and international companies access to co-location services aligned with the digital initiative supporting Brunei Vision 2035 and its initiatives. The company launched its co-location service in July 2021 following the newly refurbished Tier 2 data centre.
The new co-location service will provide an enhanced customer experience and convenience with remote hand service allowing customers to execute their data centre operation remotely.
With this service, customers can now focus on tasks within their organisation and will no longer need to send their staff to the data centre. Local businesses and IT companies can set up a disaster recovery (DR) data centre and augment their data centre expansion plan.
UNN marked another milestone in December 2021 when it launched a cloud hosting service– Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). It is suitable for all types of businesses, ranging from small businesses looking to host websites to mobile applications up to large enterprises who want to run their businesscritical applications in the cloud. With IaaS, businesses pay for what is required without the worries of building and maintaining complex data centres or IT infrastructure. Businesses can start small and scale up quickly as needs arise without incurring large capital expenditure.
With the goal of supporting Brunei Vision 2035 and the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025 that aims to improve the lives of Bruneians through digital technology whether for home, work or on the move, imagine Sdn Bhd offers customers the concept of ‘Owning the Home’ through its products and services in the company’s role as an enabler for Brunei’s Smart Nation evolution.
From fixed broadband to offering more than just connectivity to its broadband and mobile customers, imagine strives to make everyday life easier with their Smart Home and Smart security products as well as the introduction of 5G in the near future.
Imagine Sdn Bhd CEO Suzannawati binti Haji Suharju talked about the services that imagine has introduced over the last year and a half, along with the Mesh WiFi, mobile and Smart Home as well as Gaming bundles all of which translates to imagine’s aspirations of catering to everyone in their homes and beyond while also exploring the latest in technology and services to support local businesses looking to grow their presence through ICT.
Following its ‘Fastest, Biggest, Cheapest’ broadband campaign, imagine continues to launch affordable and competitive products. With the introduction of postpaid and prepaid SIM cards, imagine offers one the most costeffective prepaid bundles that begins with an BND8 starter pack in addition to its different boosters suited to different Bruneian lifestyles whether for the data heavy user or for those who prefer to text and call.
As an extension of the company’s ‘Owning the Home’ aspirations, imagine also introduced ‘Family Deals’ for households. This service builds on imagine’s broadband and mobile bundle plans but with the added bonus of receiving more for less for families that sign up together. Apart from saving more, this plan also features broadband and mobile service management under one account that will allow families to manage their broadband and mobile services together while also having the flexibility to manage their accounts individually.
“The imagine Family Deals brings our focus back to the home where we spend most of our time with the people that we care for. As we work towards expanding this service, we want to position ourselves as the best telco provider for the family. We see potential in this product in terms of growth and value-added services (VAS), such as sharing data across family members, which is a natural next step as the telco that’s ‘best for families’. We believe that our new offers this year will be further appreciated by our customers as part of our quality customer experience,” explained Suzanna.
Apart from its household plans, imagine has also been working with industry-related retailers to maximise options for customers. Its 2021 highlights include offering plans bundled with Apple products including desktop computers, Samsung device bundles for mobile as well as tablets, and even offering low-cost device plans to make getting connected within reach.
Additionally, their first ever Gaming Bundle has made waves in the local gaming community that caters to a specific niche which continues to grow in popularity. Suzanna shared that the launch of the gaming bundle has been very well received thus far and the company actively seeks partnerships with local gamers to improve the company’s product offerings.
“We are doing quite a number of things not just from the innovations space, but also towards curating products and services for Brunei’s diverse ICT market,” said the CEO. “As we don’t want to go blindly into these markets, we are taking a systematic approach in what we want to roll out, working together with different stakeholders throughout the country.”
This includes maintaining the company’s relationship with different government ministries to better understand the national ICT agenda as well as placing boots on the ground to connect with the everyday Bruneian to create products and services that may be needed to lead productive lives through telecommunications.
“The intention of imagine’s plan for the coming year is for us to expand,” said Suzanna. From a customer experience or customer service point of view, it means to continuously promote Smart Nation while encouraging the use of digital platforms while also focussing on the needs of imagine’s government and corporate clients. Towards the end of 2021, imagine introduced the ImagineGo app which allows customers who subscribe to both imagine broadband and mobile to have access via one application.
Customers may top up, pay their bills, check their data balance and more. This upgrade is also reflected on imagine’s website portal that carries the same features and convenience while also offering customers the opportunity to sign up for new services online.
Catering to the need of businesses, the company recently launched the imagine x EPOS bundle. With this service, businesses can implement automated discounts and push SMS services under one platform. The service also features an online order function through the KepaiPOS webstore, convenient payment tracker whether through bank transfer or online payments and better product management all of which can be accessed worldwide.
Speaking on the pandemic’s impact, Suzanna said imagine saw an increase of subscribers as most of the population had to work or study from home. As an organisation, imagine had to first and foremost ensure the safety of its employees as well as customers, leading imagine to also re-establish if there was a need to have branches open.
“We knew Bruneians were already ready to embrace the digital way of accessing our services, but the pandemic fast-tracked this transition because it is indeed safer for everyone. We were very active in promoting our online services such as signups via our website for both broadband and mobile services with the delivery of sim cards to customers’ doorsteps,” explained Suzanna.
While the telco provider encourages the use of digital platforms, imagine also appreciates its customers who prefer the traditional means of interaction. The QueBee App provides customers with the opportunity to ‘queue from home’ to shorten the queuing wait time upon arrival at branches. “I’m grateful we have loyal customers with us who supported, and continue to support us, during these challenging times under the threat of COVID-19. We’d like to assure all our customers that we will continue to leverage on their feedback to supply the best possible service no matter what we may face in the future,” she said.
As for its operations, imagine continues to split teams and have shorter working hours at branches in ensuring operations continue in the long term. With the safety of imagine employees as the priority, the CEO said it was important for them to encourage working from home where possible during last year’s second wave.
Apart from regular online gatherings to supply imagineers with the latest national and company updates, imagine also introduced flexible working hours and provided additional data as well as top ups to support its staff and households while at home. This arrangement continued during Brunei’s endemic phase particularly with work-from-office arrangements where staff were given options to their approach towards balancing their work-life responsibilities. This, Suzanna said, was meant to ensure that employees were able to focus with peace of mind that the needs of their elderly and children are also met.
“I believe that our imagineers are among the best in the telecommunications industry. By affording ourselves the flexibility to work around these challenges, we believe that this approach promotes trust. Even during the second COVID-19 wave, we were able to launch a variety of products and services even while working remotely, giving us a glimpse into the future of work through technology while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”
Aside from wrapping up the year with new products and services, the conclusion of 2021 also marked a significant milestone for imagine’s welfare and community initiative. In December, imagine became the first ever recipient of the Brunei Asean Outstanding Social Welfare and Development Awards (AOSWADA), Private Sector category that recognises imagine’s contribution to society through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme particularly for their work with children.
Throughout 2021, imagine contributed to a number of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) related to the social welfare of children especially education. Among the highlights include the UBD x imagine community tuition centre in collaboration with Universiti Brunei Darussalam and several Zone 5 village heads in the Brunei-Muara district, as well as their contribution to support Talian Anak 121 operations under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Some of imagine’s initiatives from the onset of the pandemic were their contributions to underprivileged families, their COVID-19 Relief Fund that encouraged the general public to donate via their SMS Portal and website for anyone with online facilities to do so, supporting frontliners by partnering with vendors to donate scrubs, supporting students via donating SIM cards to underprivileged children and working with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Religious Affairs to donate data.
“We believe that it is more than just a role that we have to play. It’s the continued customer engagement that we aim to achieve, and this is one thing that we’ve done that we are known for apart from our products and services,” said Suzanna.
Imagine’s culture of giving also resonates among its staff, said Suzanna. “Every time we have a launch pertaining to our CSR, imagineers are quick to contribute. I think it stems from the DNA that we have. I believe everybody knows that we have a responsibility, not just providing connectivity, but also in providing whatever little we can to contribute to our society.”
Since the pandemic broke out, imagine has made contributions to support not only underprivileged families and frontliners but also students by donating data and SIM cards. Imagine has also conducted internal donation drives to distribute devices among students registered with ProjekFEED and the Community Welfare Council. In support of online learning, data was automatically distributed daily while also incorporating imagine’s Roll-Over Data feature for their mobile services. Imagine is proud to say that it does not profit from these meaningful causes and they absorb several costs such as providing SIM cards and maintaining each individual license to keep the SIM cards active.
“We know that there is an imbalance when it comes to connectivity still until today. I don’t just mean data, but I’m also referring to devices. Certainly, as an industry-wide initiative, this is something that we are working together to make sure that all the students have the same access to continue to do schooling online,” she said.
As for the year 2022, the CEO said they have a lot of things planned and they are excited to share with everyone when the time comes.
“We look forward to further interacting and expanding our products and customer service to both our existing as well as new customers, as we continue on with our journey towards owning the home, beyond connectivity and all with the aspiration to contribute towards a Smart Nation.”
The year 2021 was proven to be a challenging one for DST and the people of Brunei. Despite the challenges, DST was more motivated to be customer focussed and grow digitally as a company. Throughout the year, DST had introduced a number of digital services to provide its customers with convenience while staying safe at home. DST will continue to grow and launch more digital innovations and initiatives in the near future.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DST has embarked and enhanced its digital ordering platforms via the website dst.com. bn. With the launch of Mobi – iPhone 13 bundle – mid October last year, DST has successfully sold iPhone bundles exclusively through an online portal where customers are able to purchase, register or switch their mobile service provider and have them delivered right to their doorstep. The pandemic has presented itself with an opportunity to build stronger customer engagement and provide a greater customer experience.
DST has since aspired to incorporate technology platforms to help harness and translate the same brand love they gain from brick-and-mortar experiences into something that exists digitally and intends to digitise every transaction in the near future. Especially with the MyDST app – a convenient and smarter way for customers to manage all their DST accounts for Easi, Mobi, Freedom and Infinity. It provides an experience to have everything within the reach of their fingertips. DST will continue to create an experience that appeals to consumers nationwide.
When the second COVID-19 wave hit Brunei, DST has put in their best efforts to provide support to the government, specifically the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Education (MoE) in fighting against the challenges that was brought by the pandemic. A major support provided by DST, in September 2021, an EMAS (Emergency Medical Ambulance Services) 991 call centre, was set up with DST’s call centre solutions to modernise and enhance the EMAS 991 call centre features under the MoH. DST also aided the MoH by contributing mobile phones with Mobi SIM cards to assist the ministry in their daily operations to keep track of the daily conditions of those in isolation and quarantine. Routers were also set up to provide a wireless broadband connection for frontliners.
Other than contributing and supporting the MoH, DST collaborated with the MoE to launch EduPack Prihatin to help underprivileged students in Brunei with their online studies.
With EduPack Prihatin, everyone in Brunei was given a chance to donate to the cause of helping those students who had little or no access to technology and the Internet for their online learning.
In just a matter of two months, DST, with the help of everyone in Brunei, were able to reach their goal of contributing 70,000GB to the MoE for the underprivileged students.
The pandemic has elevated the importance of network connectivity and digital technologies for work. As network traffic increases with the transition from the office to the home office, DST will continuously provide connectivity and capacity in places like homes and enhance customer convenience.
Moving into 2022, DST aims to bring more conveniences to its subscribers. It is set to be a big year for DST and brings many opportunities ahead, as it relates to ever evolving technology and customer experience.
The pandemic has elevated the importance of network connectivity and digital technologies for work. As network traffic increases with the transition from the office to the home office, DST will continuously provide connectivity and capacity in places like homes and enhance customer convenience as technology provides the means to make life easy.
DST’s expanded alliance with merchants and dealers will fuel acceleration of the nationwide network build and provide synergies that can further invest into that build. DST will continue to focus on reaching even more customers and delivering amazing products and services to more people – every day and into the future.
Since its transition in 2020, Progresif Sdn Bhd has slowly grown into a telecommunications retail/sales company in Brunei with 170 staff with five retail stores in prominent areas serving over 200,000 subscribers. In recent months, Progresif shared their successful achievements in their net promoter scores, an international scoring board for customer services performance. Progresif prides itself on its customer experience with response to serving the community’s needs, especially during the second wave of COVID-19.
Customers can now make bill payments via the Progresif Care app or use a selfserving kiosk machine at Progresif stores to manage their payments.
In March 2021, Progresif unveiled a customised sales vehicle used as a mobile store by the street team as part of Progresif’s ongoing retail transformation plan.
A mobile store is the next step in Progresif’s efforts to transform the way that the company interfaces with customers and vice versa, stemming from the media and info-communications company’s longstanding promise to be a brand “that always drives progress”.
In addition to the mobile store, Progresif also unveiled its new Progresif Experience Store at Times Square Shopping Centre. It comes with an in-store café and Progresif Experience pods, ideal for private consultation with customers. Furthermore, in its effort of supporting local entrepreneurs, Progresif also provides spaces at the store for small business to showcase their products quarterly.
Progresif CEO Hajah Nurul Haniah binti Haji Mohd Jaafar said in a recent press statement that “true 21st Century retail means making your products and services more accessible” for the community. Following the start of the second COVID-19 wave in August 2021, Progresif launched its webstore to give customers the convenience of signing up for new plans, paying bills and purchasing products online. An improved version of the Progresif Care will be one thing that customers should look out for this year. With multiple useful features, the new Care app will be more than just about paying bills and top-ups – everything at one’s fingertips.
“Gone are the days where the onus was on the customer to seek out the company. The Internet has altered the dynamics of modern retail and Progresif has never shied away from change; rather, the pursuit of progress is what drives us,” said the CEO.
With the high demand for usage of home Wi-Fi, Progresif has a selection of plans that can fit every customer’s data needs at an affordable rate.
Progresif Home Wi-Fi plans come with a free installation worth BND100 and customers have the freedom to top up as much data as needed each month. Progresif also introduced Zoom Home Wi-Fi Plan last year, a worry-free streaming plan suitable for gaming, streaming, learning and others.
The Enterprise Solution was introduced last year at the Brunei MYCE event by the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC), designed to provide connectivity, data management and consultative IT services. Enterprise provides new solutions, where it recently supported isolation centres provisioned for the MoH, in record time during the second wave of COVID-19.
Through Enterprise Solution, Progresif experts work alongside customers to tailor a set of products and services to a specific need. Progressing forward in April 2022, their experts are ready to work alongside clients to accelerate Brunei’s Government, business and education sectors – powered by Brunei’s first, Enterprise Experience Centre.
Progresif stands with its core values and reflects that in aspects of its initiative. Believing that collaborating ideas could bring good outcomes, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with several agencies for partnerships across various fields such as entrepreneurship and education.
In 2021, Progresif signed an MoU with Shell LiveWIRE Brunei for the development of a startup ecosystem through educational projects and training opportunities while also providing opportunities in marketing and promotion through collaborative events. The partnership will also enhance the community development in entrepreneurship, aligned with Progresif’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Progresif also signed an MoU with Mindtrex Academy Sdn Bhd, signifying the alliance of both companies in advocating education. In the MoU, it is stated that Mindtrex shall act as a partner of Progresif in the education sector. Both will promote and cross-sell each party’s products and services.In addition to Shell LiveWIRE Brunei and Mindtrex Academy, Progresif signed an MoU with the Ministry of Education (MoE), establishing the collaborative programme Progresif for Schools.
Initiatives under the programme include the Donate Data campaign to provide Wi- Fi to selected schools, a Progresif career advice platform, student sponsorships, and a Cross Training Programme in Marketing and Corporate Communications for skill sharing and professional development.
Since its inception, Progresif has gone to great lengths to be much more than just a mobile service provider. While one of their primary aims is to enable the communities they serve to enjoy a connected and progressive life, the company also upholds its four CSR pillars of arts and culture, education, environment and entrepreneurship.
In upholding its arts and culture pillar, Progresif Media was launched as a movie streaming app that showcases quality local movies and series content, while also featuring live radio shows and podcasts covering a wide variety of genres. The web platform was launched in September 2021 and is slated to be expanded to iOS and Android in the near future.
Driven by its commitment to current and future local content creators in Brunei and the hub of Bruneian content, Progresif Media partnered with AITI for a film making initiative ‘Pitch and Produce’ which saw the product of eight series by eight independent production houses. The series are available exclusively on the Progresif Media platform.
As for the education pillar, Progresif and the MoE launched the Donate Data campaign in February 2021 to provide Wi-Fi connections to 10 local schools. Within six months since its launch, the Donate Data campaign successfully collected over BND10,500 from the public, significant amount enough to cover the SIM cards of 350 students in need of data by August 2021. The public donation has significantly increased response to the second wave of pandemic with the donation reaching almost BND50,000 in November 2021.
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