In an effort to help enable every Malaysian to thrive in the nation’s inclusive digital economy, the Government through the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) together with UiTM Holdings Sdn. Bhd. (UHSB), AxiCom Sdn. Bhd. (AxiCom), and Microsoft are partnering together to extend broadband connectivity to the rural communities in the country. AxiCom is the first Malaysian company that has completed the TVWS trial with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and entrenched as the first TVWS solution provider in Malaysia.
In a pilot project, the first TV White Space (TVWS) technology has been installed in the small town of Parit Sulong, Johor, bringing new hope and opportunities as local businesses and communities in the area can now enjoy enhanced internet services. Prior to this, the remote area had poor 4G and LTE coverage and high-speed broadband access were limited. The initiative is part of the joint commitment to realise an inclusive, responsible and sustainable digital economy as envisioned by the Government through MyDIGITAL.
“We want to ensure that every Malaysian, including the B40 and rural communities, are part of the nation’s digital-first socio-economic development. The Government has outlined bold goals to ensure every household is connected to the internet, through MyDIGITAL and the Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA) Plan. Today’s initiative is an important milestone in that direction. Through initiatives such as these, we are determined to transform the level of connectivity and reduce the current digital gap, to realise Malaysia’s MyDIGITAL aspirations,” said Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad, Minister of MOHE.
According to the MyDIGITAL blueprint, household access to broadband services in rural areas are lower than in urban areas. In 2019, 80.4% of rural households had access to mobile broadband, compared to 88.8% of urban households. Meanwhile, about 11.7% of rural households had access to fixed broadband, while 35.3% of urban enjoyed the same. Cognisant of the need to address the opportunity divide, the Government in partnership with the private sectors including UHSB, AxiCom, and Microsoft are committed to increasing the rollout of broadband infrastructure projects to drive digital transformation and inclusion.
The initiative in Parit Sulong Johor, leverages TVWS technology which is the first in Malaysia. TVWS are unused broadcasting frequencies (UHF bands from 400 MHz to 700MHz) between television channels that can act as a fixed wireless service with very large coverage. TVWS signal can penetrate through more walls and obstacles, enabling whole-home media distribution, unlike a Wi-Fi signal can penetrate up to 2 walls. Hence, TVWS is more suited as a complementary network for rural and unserved areas, where laying fiber is not a feasible solution as vast distances make that process prohibitively expensive. TVWS is cheaper and faster to deploy compared to traditional fiber and it can travel long distances and transmit through forested terrain.
“UiTM Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiary, MYREN Network Sdn. Bhd. (MNSB), was granted the Network Facilities Provider (NFP) and Network Service Provider (NSP) licenses by MCMC, where we can build fibre optic infrastructures nationwide, including fixed links, cables, towers and poles, thus enabling the supply of very high bandwith internet connection. With today’s launch, we are going full speed ahead with our infrastructure projects to connect previously unconnected communities to enable inclusive education and improve the competitiveness of Malaysia and Malaysians,” said Dato’ Sri Shahril Mokhtar, Chairman of UiTM Holdings Sdn. Bhd.
“We are excited to be playing a crucial role in this partnership with a focus to bring high-quality solutions by combining experience, innovation and state-of-the-art multimedia and technology for users in rural Malaysia. We believe TVWS will be the game changer to benefit rural communities where broadband access is a challenge and ensure they can be seamlessly integrated into the digital economy. With digital transformation being an important catalyst for Malaysia’s inclusive economic recovery, MyDIGITAL will enable Malaysia to take advantage of the breadth of opportunity that technology offers,” said Syamsul Azly Akbar, Chief Executive Officer from AxiCom.
“Access to the internet is fundamental for a digital-first economy like Malaysia. Microsoft is working with partners like MoHE, UiTM Holdings, and AxiCom in Malaysia to bring internet access to local businesses and the community in Parit Sulong, Johor. This reflects Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” said K Raman, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia.
The TV White Space trial with MCMC is part of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which works with partners to advance digital equity – access to affordable internet, affordable devices, and digital skills – as a platform for empowerment and digital transformation across the world.