Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry (AITI) was established 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.
Before AITI was established, Brunei’s telecommunication was regulated 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. The department 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. Technology has advanced and mobile phones have become a necessity in everyday life.
Over the past few years, mobile phone and broadband penetration surged in Brunei. According to AITI’s statistics, in 2015, Brunei’s mobile penetration rate was at 111.4 per cent. A year later, this figure grew to 125.5 percent. In 2017, Brunei’s mobile phone penetration rate reached 127.4 per cent.
Brunei’s mobile broadband penetration has also grown the past few years. In 2015, Brunei’s mobile broadband penetration rate was at 93.1 per cent. This figure grew to 121.4 per cent in 2017.
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 protection, making sure children’s experiences in cyberspace are safe for education and the enhancement of their creativity.
To further their research and development capabilities in ICT, in December 2017, AITI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD). The MoU marked the official commencement of collaboration work between UBD and AITI on a series of research aiming to find out more insight on consumer behaviour, affordability of communication services, ICT usage and potential future trends, service innovation and market demands, factors influencing ICT sector growth and opportunities and many more.
In October 2018, AITI held a Basic Digital Literacy Workshop for village consultative council (MPK) members in the Tutong District. Continuing their effort to promote ICT skills, AITI held a Basic Digital Literacy Workshop for
members of Mukim and Village Consultative Council (MPMK), government agencies and the general public of the Belait District. The programme itself was divided into three parts, with the aforementioned Basic Digital Literacy focussing on the basic function of Microsoft Office, while the other two centred on Digital Marketing and Web Designing.
ICT Savviness Programme Project Manager Mohammad Zul Hilmi bin Zaini said more workshops would be carried out in the future to improve ICT knowledge and increase productivity.
Path to a Smart Nation
In a joint statement released by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, and Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof on February 27, 2019, it was announced that a major transformation has been initiated in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector to accelerate the nation’s digital agenda.
Under this initiative, the network infrastructure of all existing telecommunication operators, Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru), Datastream Technology Sdn Bhd (DST), Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd (Progresif) and Brunei International Gateway Sdn Bhd (BIG) will be combined under a newly formed wholesale network operator. This new network operator has been incorporated and is called Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN). It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd. UNN is working in partnership with Deutsche Telekom Group to support this programme.
All existing companies will focus on retail operations, providing competitive fixed and mobile services to customers and will have equal access to the network infrastructure provided by UNN. Over time, consumers can expect substantial improvements in the wider availability and quality of key services at more affordable prices, supported by a state-of-the-art and fully secured integrated network. In the immediate term, there will not be any change in prices or degradation of network services.
The development of the ICT sector is critical to creating an ecosystem which supports Brunei’s long term digital transformation and the aims of Brunei Vision 2035. The establishment of UNN is a major milestone along the ICT transformation journey as Brunei progresses towards a more connected and digitally integrated future.
The ministers emphasised the importance for the country to create a state-of-the-art, fixed mobile convergent network, and for UNN to provide training and assistance to ensure full Bruneianisation and continue building on the foundations for economic diversification and creation of gainful employment.
As the leading telecommunications provider in the country, Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru) strives to continue to provide excellent and innovative services in line with Brunei ‘s mission towards nurturing a tech-savvy population as outlined in Brunei Vision 2035.
The company had a stellar 2018, through their achievements in expanding its high-speed fibre optic Internet coverage and delivering the latest in technology to citizens including those in rural areas. Moreover, TelBru has strengthened cooperation with stakeholders including the government and the private sector, and internally striven for continuous enhancement of its human capital.
Expanding Broadband Coverage
In 2018, TelBru tripled its year-on-year growth of broadband subscriber sign-ups since the previous year, underpinned by expanded coverage to homes and businesses across all four districts of the country. In line with its mission to offer high-speed Internet access that is affordable and reliable to the public, it also lowered cost entry points to broadband at the start of the year which now compares favourably to similar entry-points in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Latest figures of its national broadband coverage show that approximately 80 per cent of homes in the country are now High-Speed Broadband (HSSB) ready with Fibre to The Home (FTTH) connections, with 60 per cent of homes already connected to broadband services and counting.
With strong cooperation from stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications and the Ministry of Development, the company was able to roll out of HSSB coverage to rural areas of Kampung Rataie Housing Area in the Temburong District after the successful completion of fibre connectivity in Mukim Kota Batu in the Brunei-Muara District.
As TelBru’s subscriber base expands, providing excellent customer experience is also a main priority and is at the heart of TelBru. The recent renovation of its Kadai Telbru Branch in Citis Square, Berakas in December following a series of facelifts across the country, shows the company’s efforts to enhance customer service experience to cater to the different and evolving needs of its customers.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Another notable milestone mentioned by the company as it continues to enhance customer experience is the improved response times in which TelBru is able to connect its new customers. The waiting times have improved from three weeks to an average of four days for 95 per cent of new subscribers and two days for 75 per cent of new subscribers.
The company expressed the desire and commitment in offering a more enhanced experience for its customers. “We believe that connectivity is a necessity and not a luxury anymore. It is also key in helping to boost productivity which in turn helps to increase Brunei’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) output per capita by between 0.8–1.5 per cent for every 10 per cent of citizens connected, and of course it really helps more small and homebased offices and businesses,” said Ahmad Jefri, Telbru’s Board Lead.
TelBru is also proud to have achieved ISO 9001:2015 accreditation in 2018, making TelBru the only telco company-wide in Brunei to be accredited according to standards set by UKbased certification body British Standards Institution (BSI).
This resulted in BSI recommending TelBru for continued certification in 2019 as TelBru has demonstrated that its Quality Management System (QMS) continues to meet all requirements for certification. To gain ISO 9001:2015 accreditation, companies have to demonstrate conformity to a challenging and rewarding set of quality management system requirements. TelBru joined an elite group of companies which have achieved and maintained such standards in 2018.
New CSR Focus
As part of TelBru’s commitment to give back to the community, it will shift its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focus solely to children and the youth. TelBru will devise programmes and strategies to help disadvantaged and special needs children in collaboration with nonprofit organisations and several government agencies.
One of the initiatives is to strengthen access to help for vulnerable children which TelBru will be spearheading by working closely with the Community Development Department (JAPEM) under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports This initiative will strengthen existing services offered by JAPEM by offering free outreach services and protection for vulnerable children or children that are in distress.
Another CSR initiative TelBru plans has rolled out in 2019 is the provision of refurbished laptops to underprivileged children. These laptops, installed with the latest software for educational purposes that are universally relevant in the 21st century, will not only ease the financial burdens of families in need but also reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
Apart from making young lives and their education more meaningful, TelBru has also pledged regular financial support for SMARTER Brunei. This partnership aims to supplement the NGO’s training and development programmes to enhance the welfare and livelihood of individuals living with autism.
Security is Paramount
In an era of Internet of Things (IoT) where everyone is connected at all times, TelBru considers data protection of its company and consumers of utmost importance.
The company has invested heavily on anti-DDoS software to ensure that our customers are protected from DDoS attacks. It has done extraordinarily in this area and it has also made sure that all its large servers and computers are firewalled.
Enhancing Human Capital at TelBru
TelBru is renowned for its commitment in providing support for the career growth of its employees. Today, the company employs more than 900 staff in their dynamic and transformed organisation.
To reach out to more customers and increase broadband penetration in the country, TelBru established the Direct Sales Department, creating over 70 new jobs in 2018, comprising fresh graduates and the long-term unemployed. The company has trained them in sales techniques and ethics and they have gone through our their in-boarding process.
In the past 12 months, TelBru has attained over 1,800-man days of training conducted mostly in the country, on top of specialist training overseas.
Plans for 2019
In February 2019, a nation-wide plan was announced for the restructuring of the telecommunication industry in Brunei. This plan will see a consolidation of all telecommunication network infrastructure in the country managed under a new entity, which is a wholly owned company of Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd, TelBru’s shareholder.
Upon the completion of the restructuring, TelBru, along with the other telcos will focus on retail operations with equal access to a unified network infrastructure. This means that TelBru will be able to offer mobile services along with services that the company already delivers to its customers.
This undoubtedly represents a challenging period, but nevertheless an exciting period for the industry with consumers getting to experience a full suite of services at competitive rates.
“We have to continue to innovate because the competition will be tougher. But this is good because when companies innovate and compete, the winner is the consumer and this is very important because this in turn fuels more and more advances,” said Ahmad Jefri who is carrying out the role as the Board Lead during the restructuring exercise.
“I think there is a great opportunity that remains untapped for the telecommunications community and for Bruneians with ICT qualifications. There is no reason why app developers can’t be capitalised since Bruneians are ICT-savvy and I believe we can do it for Brunei and also outside the country.”
One particular area that Ahmad Jefri said would potentially take off in large scale with the restructuring of the industry is the future of smart homes and applications. TelBru can help smart homes get connected, giving them access to technological solutions such as convenience, security and even grocery shopping.
With more than 200,000 customers and growing, Progresif marked another milestone in May 2018 when it introduced Progresif PAY, Brunei’s first mobile service through partnership with Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam. True to its name, Progresif continues to grow and evolve, aiming to remain the most innovative telecommunication service provider.
“I think our key strength continues to be our people, first and last, our brand, our ability to innovate, our speed to market and our agility,” said Progresif CEO Paul Taylor.
Established in 2014, by continuously building breadth and depth of network, Progresif is now comparable with their competitors in terms of key areas of coverage.
“Our attitude is still, to some extent, that of a start-up. Although as the organisation grows, it needs to embrace enhancements on a number of areas including governance and process orientation to ensure it continues to deliver an exceptionally good customer experience.”
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 and culture, environment and entrepreneurship.
“We’ve helped in both financial and non-financial terms across our four pillars. We try with some success, I think, to give back to the community and encourage the development of young minds and small businesses,” said Paul.
In July 2018, the public was treated to a night of music and multi-cultural performances from around the region at Progresif Cultural Night.
The show displayed the rich cultural diversity in Brunei through a series of dance and song performances. Progresif released the ninth issue of its quarterly magazine in August 2018, featuring themes of environmental conservation and the local maker movement in Brunei, as well as highlighting the importance of recycling. They worked with a Startup Lab resident to explore the effects of plastic and how to properly dispose of electronic waste in Brunei Darussalam. They also introduced Progresif Super Kids, eight children already running their own businesses and learning the ropes of entrepreneurship at a young age.
“We take our responsibility to society here very seriously and we’ve given back quite substantially in terms of hosting entrepreneurial initiatives, supporting local arts and culture, environment and education,” said Paul.
Expanding into media and e-commerce
In April 2017, Progresif opened its own Startup Lab to support the growth of local innovation and to assist startups in their development. A few months later, the company launched Brunei’s first app-based mobile radio station to support the growing music and content production industry in Brunei.
“The market in Brunei for mobile services is, by its nature, finite,” said Paul. “New applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT) will of course continue to drive a number of connections. We believe an action of plan to embrace media and e-commerce as a means of diversifying our revenues, while continuing to focus on our core mobile segments and further developing a presence in selected local, government corporate and business markets.”
Progresif has made significant development over the last few years. However, Progresif does not plan to stop and settle. The Progresif CEO said there would always be room for improvement.
“In every area of Progresif, however accomplished we become, we’ll always look to do better,” said Paul. “A key area, as I mentioned earlier, is that of customer experience. We must be relentless in pursuit of absolute excellence in everything we do that affects the way people and organizations interact with us. In Progresif, we have two types of people: those who serve the customer and those who serve those who serve the customer.”
Progresif will continue their emphasis on innovation. “We expect to enhance our media offers alongside the magazine and the radio that exist today. We will be adding new features to existing products and continuing in our quest to offer the most effective customer service, delivering an extraordinarily positive experience in every interaction,” said Paul.
Serving the country for over two decades, DST since its establishment in 1995 is today Brunei’s leading telecommunications provider, offering a diverse range of services in mobile services, mobile broadband, broadcasting and content.
Through its flagship subsidiary DST Communications Sdn Bhd (DST), the company offers services in 2G, 2.5G, 3.5G and 4G LTE through both prepaid and post-paid plans including phone and mobile broadband.
DST’s mobile telephone service offerings to its customers have undergone major transformations from its first analogue AMPS system to today’s digital 4G LTE network. The company has diversified its service offerings not only to its customers but also the corporate community.
With over 200 2G cell tower sites and over 300 3G and 4G sites to date, DST remains committed to the goal of providing the country with extensive nationwide coverage. On average, DST builds 50 new cell tower sites every year to extend coverage to fulfil the needs of its subscribers across all four districts, especially in sub-urban and rural areas. More sites are planned to be rolled out each year.
The year 2018 marked a significant milestone when DST became the first company in Brunei to be awarded the prestigious ISO:20000, which is an international standard that helps organisations benchmark on how they deliver and measure services, as well as in assessing service performance to attain and maximise customers’ satisfaction.
To replicate its domestic success to a larger market, DST has over the years been actively seeking for opportunities in regional expansion and investment. In 2017, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SACOFA Sdn Bhd (Sacofa), a Sarawak-based ICT infrastructure company to form a strategic collaboration to bring international broadband quality to Sarawak. Prior to this, in 2016, DST made an investment in a Singaporean telecommunications company MyRepublic.
With rapid shifts in the fourth industrial revolution globally, DST remains up to pace as it moves forward to grow in tandem with efforts to develop Brunei’s economy. Some of its latest strategies include the steering of its business towards digital transformation through investment in human capital development, moving away from legacy and traditional telecommunications infrastructure and systems, while also advancing towards a more innovative and diverse portfolio of digital systems, business models and the embodiment of a digital culture. With these developments, DST hopes to be an enabler for technologies that will support preparations in the move towards a Smart Nation.
Copyright 2019 Borneo Bulletin Yearbook 2019 All rights reserved.