Malaysia turns to Canada for networking best practices

The head of Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Commission was in Ottawa this week in search of ideas to take home to her country’s telecommunications industry and to scout out potential foreign communications investment.

It was a return visit following Canada’s early-2001 delegation to Malaysia, in which Canada gathered information on Malaysia’s convergent regulations.

“Considering the size of Canada and its population, we thought there were some lessons and best practices we could learn and see how they could be adopted in our country,” said commission chair Tan Sri Nuraizah Abdul Hamid, who was accompanied by representatives from Malaysian telecommunications providers Telekom Malaysia and Digi Telecommunications.

“We are probably hoping we can work out some kind of networking arrangement so we can exchange ideas. We may even want to send staff at an operational level, maybe even to be attached to the CRTC.”

Hamid, who met with Canadian government officials and members of the wireless industry, told CN that Malaysia, a small South Asian country with a population of about 22 million, has a low telephone penetration rate – about 22 per cent.

Internet penetration is about the same, at roughly 20 per cent, she added, and most connections are still dial-up, since broadband is available only in the most advanced urban areas.

“We need to ensure there is broadband access to every part of the country.”

To push Malaysia along the path toward becoming a high-tech Mecca – the country wants to become a leader in the knowledge economy and has its own version of Silicon Valley, called the multimedia super-corridor – the government passed its convergent legislation in 1998.

That legislation removes the traditional licensing distinctions between voice, data and multimedia or video.

Under the law, licensing structures have been reorganized into four areas: network facilities, network services, applications and content, explained Hamid.

“We are completely technology-neutral,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what technology you use, whether it’s wireline or wireless or satellite. It just depends on what service you are providing. If it’s a network facility, you are licensed to provide that facility.”

That’s the theory. Practice has not quite caught up yet, though, she said.

“We’re trying to work out a time-frame when it would be most suitable for us to enable a cross-sector operation so that if you are a network facility provider you can also go into content service provision.”

Hamid — who was one of the many visitors to Canada this week unable to get on return flights home due to closed airports following the terrorist attacks in the United States Tuesday — said she sees wireless as the future of telecommunications in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s wireless sector has grown by about 150 per cent over the past year, while wireline penetration has remained low.

The biggest problems her country is dealing with relate to last-mile connectivity and universal access, she said.

“Every licensed network facility provider — and we have six of them — should be providing this last-mile facility, but what we observe is that other than incumbent network facility providers, the rest don’t seem to be anxious to invest,” said Hamid. “Sometimes they give the excuse that if they provide this last-mile facility they will have to allow other people to upgrade within their network and most of them are reluctant to do that.”

One of the Canadian companies with a presence in Malaysia is Spectrocan, an Ottawa-based global systems integrator that focuses on spectrum management solutions that it sells to telecommunications regulators around the world.

Part of AMEC, an engineering design firm, Spectrocan has been in Malaysia for about 10 years, said vice-president Sailesh Thaker.

The company has taken technologies and best practices related to spectrum management developed by the Canadian government and is making them available to the Malaysian government, said Thaker.

Thaker added Malaysia offers a huge opportunity for Canadian companies that want to move beyond our borders.

“From the perspective of providing services such as 3G, the Malaysia environment offers the right legislative framework and the right type of educational and office facilities, as well as accommodation for people to develop the new 3G type of applications and even deploy them throughout Asia from here,” said Thaker. “They’ve basically created a complete infrastructure.”

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