A sum of RM1 billion is required to help Sarawak’s broadband penetration rate hit 95 per cent in five years’ time, Sarawak-based firm Sacofa Sdn Bhd has said.
Sacofa deputy chairman Datuk Syed Ahmad Alwee Alsree said Sarawak’s current broadband penetration rate is 53 per cent, which means that his firm would have to achieve an annual growth of eight to 10 per cent in the provision of high-speed internet over the next five years to achieve the government’s minimum goal of 95 per cent, The Borneo Post reported today.
“Although this is an ambitious target, with hard work and continuous strong support from the state government we are confident of delivering this objective,” he was quoted saying.
He said Sacofa had already submitted its proposal to the government for a RM500 million sum for the installation of more telecommunication towers and to put fibre optic cables, while the firm will be spending about RM500 million to improve its existing network in Sarawak.
“We are talking about connecting a landmass that is almost comparable in size to the entire landmass of the Peninsula, but having only one-tenth of the population at just over 2.5 million people,” he said at Sacofa’s 15th anniversary dinner.
He said Sacofa has already installed 1,000 towers and laid over 10,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables, adding that the company also monitors and maintains the towers that have been built.
Also present at the dinner was Sarawak governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who thanked former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his understanding of Sarawak’s needs.
Taib, who was Sarawak’s chief minister for almost 33 years until his retirement in 2014, said the company dedicated to building and expanding the Sarawak’s telecommunications network was formed in 2001 following talks with Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir was the country’s prime minister for 22 years until his retirement on October 31, 2003.
Taib stressed the need for speed in ensuring that every village and longhouse in Sarawak would be able to enjoy IT facilities like developed countries, adding that he was convinced that Sarawak would be able to do so with Sacofa which was specifically created for the state’s telecommunications development.
Acknowledging that the telecommunications network expansion in Sarawak would be “very expensive”, Taib said however that there is “no alternative”.
In a company announcement filed with Bursa Malaysia on April 2, 2015, public listed firm Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB) had announced its acquisition of 50 per cent of Sacofa’s shares and spoke of the company’s prospects.
The company announcement said the Sarawak government had on March 5, 2002 given Sacofa a 20-year concession until December 31, 2021 to build, manage, lease and maintain telecommunication towers in the state.
Although CMSB acknowledged then that the concession agreement had a “finite life”, it said Sacofa’s operations of more than 600 telecommunications towers would deter new market players from being able to compete with it, adding that it has strong earnings visibility as the sole provider of the telecommunications towers in Sarawak to telcos.
The company announcement also said that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission had in 2005 ― under the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water’s directive ― directed each state to use state-backed companies to centralise the building of network facilities to promote the sharing of telecommunication towers among telcos and to improve the nationwide cellular coverage.
Prior to the company announcement, the shareholders of Sacofa are the state financial secretary of Sarawak at 70.51 per cent, Celcom Axiata Bhd at 15.12 per cent, Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd at 7.57 per cent and Yayasan Sarawak at 6.8 per cent.
Source : The Malay Mail Online