Interview: Suhaimi Hussain
Where can telecoms companies grow, given Brunei Darussalam’s high level of mobile penetration?
SUHAIMI HUSSAIN: Telecoms companies are currently looking at improving data utilisation. Due to the prevalent use of social media, there is an increased level of access to information for a wide variety of purposes. Relaying that information for online marketing is also increasing, so providing as much accessibility as possible and offering the highest service quality to data users is a requirement for every operator. There is room for growth in customer adoption of 4G long-term evolution (LTE). The launch of 4G LTE here has been successful, but we can better demonstrate its advantages to customers, as the slow adoption is, in part, due to the perceived lack of a need for the technology.
What infrastructure investments are needed to improve Bruneian mobile services and networks?
SUHAIMI: There is a lot of room for infrastructure investment in the industry and the area of focus must be data service. Most operators are experiencing declining voice and SMS activity, and increased data usage does not compensate for this shift. The focus now is to improve coverage. It is a challenge to provide services in some areas, especially indoors and to rural areas, as it involves not just investing in developing more sites but also investing in the appropriate technologies. We are constantly investing to improve service quality.
What type of international cooperation is needed to develop roaming services?
SUHAIMI: International cooperation is needed primarily in regard to the fees charged by different operators. Population movement within ASEAN member states is high, so a revision on inter-operators’ charges in neighbouring nations is needed. This is especially true in the case of data services, which are not very user-friendly in terms of its roaming charges.
For now, DST is taking the initiative to warn our travelling customers, so as to ensure that the bills they receive for roaming data charges do not shock them. When it comes to smartphones, a substantial volume of data is generated without users necessarily being aware. Thus, operators in the region need to cooperate to make it more conducive for customers to use data while roaming, which will benefit all parties.
How should regulations be updated to account for the introduction of new technologies in the telecoms industry in Brunei Darussalam?
SUHAIMI: Understanding the technologies and their applicability and viability in the local environment must first be considered before new or revised regulation is passed to accommodate them. This ensures that any technologies to be introduced will not just add value to the users, but also be viable for providers to offer. Telecoms regulation has become difficult in that the lines identifying the telecoms industry have blurred. IT, media, broadcasting and telecoms have become difficult to distinguish, and with some applications, other regulation has also encroached. The challenge for new regulation is to take these shifts into account.
What potential exists for Bruneian telecoms operators to expand regionally?
SUHAIMI: It is a challenge for Bruneian telecoms operators to expand regionally, as the investment needed will be huge compared to what has been invested locally, due to differing market sizes. Operators would also have to compete with big, recognised regional and international players for the same opportunities which have now become scarce. To minimise the amount of investment and reduce risk, local telecom operators can co-invest where possible. Before considering venturing out, local telecoms operators will also have to significantly increase their investment in their human resources in order to develop them into the highly competent work forces can compete regionally. With a competent work force a firm will not just be a strategic partner, but also add value to the investment.
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