One of UNN buildings located in Lambak. Image: The Bruneian

ICT usage and consumption have increased significantly since Unified National Networks (UNN) went live in January, with the trend forecasted to continue throughout the year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic being under control.

During a media engagement session held at the Radisson Hotel recently, UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler acknowledged how the increase in data usage in March and April were attributed to COVID-19 related changes in customer demands.

However, he explained that the trends “continued seamlessly in May, June and July” which he believed would forecast the amount of local data usage in the months to come.

According to data provided by UNN, throughout January until June, the number of broadband lines has increased by 20 per cent with the company receiving more than 2800 new orders of broadband access a month.

In light of increase in demand, Dr Oehler pointed that in turn, this has caused broabdband penetration in the country to increase from the previous 53 per cent to 60 per cent, within a matter of months.

“Due to the pandemic, we believe that (most Bruneians) have learned to depend on fixed data, having to work from, learn from home and relying more on home-based entertainment,” he said.

UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler giving a briefing regarding UNN in the recent media engagement. Image: Analisa Amu

“So people now are using data for things that they would have otherwise not done before the pandemic came, so due to COVID-19 we have adjusted to a new way of telecommunications usage,” added the CEO.

Meanwhile, the data also showed that as a whole, mobile data consumption in the country has also shown an increased by 22 per cent, as each mobile customer consumes 18 per cent more data.

Expanding existing networks and establishing new connections

Dr Oehler also said that populated areas in most Mukims have access to internet service with the existing 3G/4G mobile coverage.

“Of course there are still white spots in areas difficult to reach and with challenging geographical profile,” he continued.

He explained that 120 new sites have been planned to address existing internet access issues, adding that Brunei’s mobile network will be “modernised” providing latest “state of the art technology”, albeit it will only be done through a phased approach.

“The entire network consists of 24 clusters with 15 to 25 sites in each cluster. For each cluster there is a detailed expansion plan in place,” said the ceo.

He added that the ongoing work in the clusters will be aligned with the SalesCos, with the public being informed in a more targeted way.

Dr Oehler went on to note that in terms of FTTH statistics, 16,358 customer connections have been completed between January and July of this year, a majority of which were done in Brunei-Muara with 12,272 connections.
Meanwhile, 2,404 connections were made in Belait, 1,503 in Tutong and 179 in Temburong.

With this, the CEO commented Brunei’s Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network has been expanded to include an additional 2,744 connection points; 946 in the Tutong district and 1,798 from the other districts.

Ultimately, UNN intends for a massive investment in FTTH, setting a target of 95 per cent fibre coverage, with the remaining 5 per cent designated for more wireless solutions.

Subsequently the company is aiming for 85 per cent of Bruneian homes to be connected by 2024.

At the same time, the company is also eyeing an eight times growth of capacity in transport networks, taking into account the increased data usage and penetration rates.

Cyber defence centre

With a number of modernisation initiatives of the country’s telecommunications sector in the pipeline, UNN is also introducing a Cyber Defence Centre.

The objective of this centre is to protect all digital services, data interfaces, communication and production systems of UNN from domestic as well as foreign threats.

Significant investments will be done in “monitoring, protection, analytics and intelligence systems” to ensure a world class cyber defence environment and standards.

“Specialised training programs will enable subject matter experts to detect, prevent and respond to cyber-attacks with an integrated approach to the enterprise security solutions; safeguarding the entire network,” explained Dr Oehler.

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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