Yes Uncle

It has happened to me again. I went to my local Steven’s Corner to have dinner today and was greeted by the person at the counter: “Yes uncle, sudah order?” (Yes uncle, have you ordered?). Uncle??!! My oh my, I must’ve looked damn terrible today to have been called ‘uncle’ by someone who was obviously older than me. Fortunately, since I like Steven’s Corner, I will forgive this particular slight on their part.

Right outside Steven’s Corner, there were a bunch of really young pups who were doing a roadshow for P1WiMAX, a new wireless broadband provider in Malaysia. It is a subsidiary of Green Packet Bhd, which is one of the 4 companies to get a WiMAX license from our government. It is good to see that there is more competition in Malaysia for the broadband business but it is very sad to see that Telekom Malaysia is still entrenched as the fixed line monopoly.

Pretty much every phone line in Malaysia is installed and run by Telekom Malaysia. As such, they have practically been the sole provider of broadband services to homes in Malaysia. Since it is a giant government linked monopoly, it does not need to worry about competition much. Therefore, service has been terrible and the ‘broadband’ speeds that we get are technically defined as ‘narrowband’.

On the wireless side, we have our mobile service providers selling 3G/HSDPA wireless broadband access. However, from my own tests and reports from others, they are no better. Both Maxis and Celcom ‘broadband’ also fail the definition easily. It is extremely difficult to achieve high speed connections on these services. Furthermore, there is something wrong with the Maxis network implementation that I am unable to access GMail (I have figured out what it is and have come up with a work around but that’s the subject of another blog entry).

Now, there is a new WiMAX service provider. The touts were happily showing us YouTube streaming on the wireless modem. While I do believe that WiMAX technology is far superior to the rest, I am not jumping for joy and I will tell you why. It will suffer the same problem that we have with Telekom Malaysia – lack of competition. With only 3 WiMAX licensees in peninsular Malaysia, it is trivial for them to cut things up between themselves (northern, central and southern regions).

That is why I do not believe that they are going to be any better than any other monopoly. While their speeds may be extremely impressive at the moment, once their network bandwidth is saturated with subscribers, things will get bad and there is nothing that any consumer can do. WiMAX has about a 10Mbps bandwidth at 2km. That is not much bandwidth once the slots are fully utilised.

So, as much as I hate the ADSL service provided by Telekom Malaysia, I loath switching to some other provider who will ultimately turn into another monopoly. Now, if only our government would open things up thoroughly.

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Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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