Is TNB Broadband the answer to our broadband woes? Here are 5 questions they need to answer.

TNB, the electric utility company is expected to reveal its commercial fibre broadband plans next month. At the moment, TNB is conducting broadband trials in Melaka which covers 1,100 homes. 

During an event yesterday, TNB CEO Datuk Seri Ir Azman Mohd had shared that TNB was in the process of communicating its plan to the relevant ministries and we will hear more about it in January 2019. He added that the current broadband pilot tests will be completed by end of this month and TNB will be evaluating the results. 

According to TNB, their fibre optics network is an integral part of their electricity grid operation’s design and it’s used to ensure high reliability of electricity supply nationwide. When the pilot program was launched in September this year, it was to evaluate the potential of using its telecommunication assets for the National Connectivity Plan. 

Just recently, Pos Malaysia had given a sneak preview of TNB Broadband’s performance at a post office located in Jasin, Melaka. Their speedtest revealed a high download speed of over 930Mbps with a ping of 7ms. 

Having a new broadband player is always welcomed provided it can help to improve our current broadband situation. Here are 5 things they would need to answer.

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Can TNB solve the Streamyx problem?

Broadband prices have hit an all-time low thanks to the new Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing. Unfortunately, only those in urban areas are enjoying the benefit due to limited fibre broadband access in non-urban areas. Those out of coverage have no choice but to pay higher price for slow broadband. 

Currently, there are approximately 500,000 Streamyx customers without any upgrade options. TM had called upon the government to provide a win-win solution but we haven’t seen anything yet from their recent engagement.

So the biggest question is whether TNB will roll out to urban centres or will they focus on untapped areas where there’s no existing fibre coverage. If it’s the former, it will be no different from other players where they are only rolling out in areas where it’s feasible for their business. We certainly hope it’s the latter and TNB will invest in providing high speed connectivity to underserved areas. 

Can TNB run a consumer business? 

TNB is a public utility company and they have never offered a commercial product and service before. To roll out broadband is a whole different ball game. Unlike supplying electricity, TNB will need to go all out to acquire subscribers and they are going up against other established telcos in the country. 

Can TNB offer competitive broadband plans?

While faster speeds are good, pricing is also important. At the moment, you can get a 30Mbps fibre broadband from RM79/month and even 100Mbps fibre is offered at RM99/month. If you got a need for speed, several providers are now providing speeds of up to 1Gbps. It will be interesting to see what TNB has to offer and whether they can provide a sub-RM100 fibre broadband plan with unlimited quota. 

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What can TNB offer that others can’t?

When TM introduced Unifi, they were pushing on convergence where you get broadband, telephony and IPTV content in one subscription. Meanwhile, Maxis is positioning themselves as the all-in-one connectivity solution for the whole family by offering unlimited data for both mobile and fixed broadband on MaxisONE Prime.

Understandably, there are those who just want broadband only. When the time comes when price and speed are no longer a factor, how would TNB differentiate themselves from the rest? As a new player, TNB has to make significant investments to start a fibre business and engaging in a price war is not sustainable in the long run. 

Do we actually need more providers?

Is having more players the solution? Probably not if all providers are only concentrating on high-density areas. 

What we probably need is for the government to provide incentives to fibre broadband players to cover untapped areas. That way, we could see a faster expansion of fibre coverage nationwide including East Malaysia. 

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Alexander Wong