Microsoft has partnered with the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), UiTM Holdings and AxiCom to help extend broadband connectivity to the rural communities across Malaysia, aligned to the MyDIGITAL framework.
In a pilot project, the first TV White Space (TVWS) technology has been installed in the town of Parit Sulong in Johor, allowing local businesses and communities access to enhanced internet services while removing reliance on poor 4G and LTE coverage.
With the aim of realising an “inclusive, responsible and sustainable” digital economy, AxiCom has become the first Malaysian provider to complete the TVWS trial with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
“We are excited to be playing a crucial role in this partnership with a focus to bring high-quality solutions by combining experience, innovation and state-of-the-art multimedia and technology for users in rural Malaysia,” said Syamsul Azly Akbar, CEO of AxiCom.
“We believe TVWS will be the game changer to benefit rural communities where broadband access is a challenge and ensure they can be seamlessly integrated into the digital economy. With digital transformation being an important catalyst for Malaysia’s inclusive economic recovery, MyDIGITAL will enable Malaysia to take advantage of the breadth of opportunity that technology offers.”
The trial with MCMC also forms part of Microsoft’s Airband initiative, which works with partners to advance digital equity -- specifically access to "affordable internet, affordable devices and digital skills" -- as a platform for digital transformation in Malaysia and beyond.
“Access to the internet is fundamental for a digital-first economy like Malaysia,” added K Raman, managing director of Malaysia at Microsoft. “This reflects Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”
From a technology standpoint, TVWS operates unused broadcasting frequencies -- UHF bands from 400 MHz to 700MHz -- between television channels that can act as a fixed wireless service with large coverage. A TVWS signal can penetrate through more walls and obstacles, enabling whole-home media distribution, unlike a Wi-Fi signal which can only penetrate up to two walls.
UiTM Holdings -- through its wholly owned subsidiary, MYREN Network -- was granted the network facilities provider (NFP) and network service provider (NSP) licences by MCMC, allowing the business to build fibre optic infrastructures nationwide, including fixed links, cables, towers and poles.
“With this launch, we are going full speed ahead with our infrastructure projects to connect previously unconnected communities to enable inclusive education and improve the competitiveness of Malaysia and Malaysians,” outlined Dato’ Sri Shahril Mokhtar, chairman of UiTM Holdings.
According to the MyDIGITAL blueprint, household access to broadband services in rural areas are lower than in urban areas across Malaysia. In 2019, 80.4 per cent of rural households had access to mobile broadband, compared to 88.8 per cent of urban households, declining to 11.7 per cent and 35.3 per cent for fixed broadband respectively.
“We want to ensure that every Malaysian, including the B40 and rural communities, are part of the nation’s digital-first socio-economic development,” stated Datuk Seri Dr. Noraini Ahmad, minister of MOHE.
“This initiative is an important milestone in that direction. Through initiatives such as these, we are determined to transform the level of connectivity and reduce the current digital gap, to realise Malaysia’s MyDIGITAL aspirations.”