Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Having all network infrastructure consolidated solely under one entity – the Unified National Networks (UNN) – opens more opportunities for Bruneians to start their own telecommunication firms.

The ability to run fixed line services and broadband networks may be exclusive to certain companies in the past but with UNN, all firms now have equal access.

This means that companies like Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru) can also offer mobile phone services besides its fixed-line packages; the same goes with cellular firms DST and Progresif.

It has also been reported that the introduction of UNN into Brunei telecommunication industry is set to regulate network prices into something that is more affordable not just to clients, but also business partners.

If not cheaper than how it is now, businesses may have a diverse range of options and benefits to customise their packages.

Facilitating telecommunication startups

UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler told The Bruneian that besides regulating the country’s network towers and facilities, UNN also strives to make it easier for people to start telecommunication companies.

The combined power of network assets which previously belonged separately to TelBru, DST and Progresif could actually transfer terabytes of data with cables connecting to several hotspots in Asia including Hong Kong and Singapore.

This also means that Brunei is capable of delivering faster internet to users, he explained.

“In this regard, there is no reason not to use this capacity to start successful businesses.  Having access to the internet in every corner of the country and padding them with affordable rates will definitely give smaller businesses a chance to build on their cases,” he said.

Similar to the existing telecommunication firms, startups may also profit solely from the sales of its packages, with Oehler encouraging them to come up with something creative and competitive to the market.

“We provide the necessary facilities, it is up to these businesses to think of their own working models and see how they can serve their markets well,” the CEO said.

“But we will definitely give our support to any entities looking to make a mark in the telecommunication industry, after all we also want them to fill in the spaces in the eco-system and help the industry to grow,” he added.

Paving way for international investments

Besides facilitating startups, UNN is also ready to welcome any international companies wanting to start telecommunication businesses in the country – especially when Brunei already has the capacity to operate 5G.

“We definitely can facilitate them but it still depends on whether they can comply with the sultanate’s licensing regime and regulations,” he said.

“If they are coming, they should also be willing to pay for international benchmark prices for our connectivity and capacity since we also work hard to maintain its quality,” he added.

Beyond the infrastructure consolidation

UNN, Oehler added, plans to stay for long in Brunei, with plans already laid out for the coming three years.

“Our long term plan include to modernise all of Brunei’s network facilities and infrastructure.  We want to build more towers especially at areas that are underserved today so more people can enjoy mobile and internet services,” he said.

“There are still more work to be done.  We have just acquired more than 95 percent of network infrastructure from all of the three telcos on September 1,” said the CEO.

Besides stabilising operations and introducing itself to existing clients, Oehler said UNN is also working on implementing several systems, which include mobile phone number portability that may allow users to change service providers without changing their numbers.

The CEO reiterated UNN’s main objective, which is to make network-related services more visible and tangible for customers to access, with good value and pricing imposed on them.

“This is our commitment to Brunei.  We will definitely use our funds wisely and to channel them right where there is demand for our services to fulfill that,” he said.

This article was first published on September  14, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 54

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN | The Bruneian

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