Telecommunication in Brunei Darussalam – Then and Now

Since mobile communication was first introduced in Brunei Darussalam by Jabatan Telekom Brunei (JTB) in 1989 using the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), it has changed the way we communicate dramatically as opposed to the alternative fixed-line telephone.

Mobile phones, as its namesake suggests, enabled users to communicate while on the move and its popularity has since dominated the world.

The revolution of mobile technology in Brunei Darussalam saw improvement throughout the years with the introduction of Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) in 1995 by Datastream Technology Sdn Bhd (DST). GSM was a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to set protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices then.

In 2005, 3G services were introduced with features such as video calls and mobile internet, before upgrading to a better and faster internet experience for video streaming and smart phone applications via the introduction of 4G technology in 2014.

On 1 September 2019, the network infrastructure of Brunei’s four telecommunications providers – Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru), Datastream Technology Sdn Bhd (DST) and Progresif Cellular Sdn Bhd (Progresif), as well as Brunei International Gateway Sdn Bhd (BIG), were consolidated under a single entity, the Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd (UNN).

Each successive generation of mobile communications services saw higher speeds and enhanced user experience thus it is a natural progression for UNN to prepare the nation for the next leap in technology.

The 2G services were phased out with a complete cessation on 1 June 2021 with the 2G spectrum reused for the provision of more advanced mobile services to enable UNN to deliver higher standards of service quality and reliability.

The ongoing Radio Access Network (RAN) and fibre network expansion project started by UNN in 2020 have continuously expanded the nationwide network outreach to bring significantly higher speed for mobile services, additional connection points and provide an improved fixed network service across the country where people are living, especially in remote and geographically or topically challenged areas in Brunei Darussalam.

UNN has since carried out a series of upgrades on its broadband network to address the increased traffic and data volume that occurred during the first, second and third wave of the pandemic.

In 2020, UNN had established over 25,000 customer connections or 50% penetration rate of households using fixed broadband services and in the early quarter of 2022, the country will have reached 80% penetration rate – a remarkable feat in a short period of time.

Image: Zaim Kasmat

UNN’s ongoing transformation project is aimed to further modernize the existing telecommunication infrastructure in the country to cater for higher and greater connectivity, bandwidth, and quality for the nation in preparation for the 5G technology, targeted to roll out in this year.

While 4G focuses on delivering much faster mobile broadband services than 3G, 5G technology is designed to be a unified, more capable platform that not only elevates mobile broadband experiences, but also supports new services such as mission-critical communications and the massive IoT (internet of things).

5G technology is expected to provide higher data speeds with less delay than 4G technology. Some 5G services will provide coverage areas with data speeds up to a hundred times faster with an almost instantaneous response time. For example, it can take almost six minutes to download a feature-length movie with 4G. With 5G, the same movie can be downloaded in as little as 15 seconds.

Technically speaking, current 4G speeds are approximately 12-36 megabytes per second (Mbps), while 5G services are expected to support speeds of up to 300 Mbps or greater.

And as members of the consortium of three submarine cable systems including South-East Asia – Middle East – Western Europe 3 (SE-ME-WE3), Asia-America Gateway (AAG), South-East Asia-Japan Cable (SJC), UNN continues to ensure that members of the public will always have access to content from the world.

In short, the efforts that UNN has put into modernizing the existing infrastructure will support the benefits of 5G technology which in return will provide consumers and businesses with faster data transfer speeds and improved network reliability. And, with service providers DST, imagine and Progresif supporting UNN 5G initiatives, consumers may also enjoy reformed tariffs and broadband service packages.

Telecommunication services are the backbone of the digital economy and an integral part of our work and daily lives. Whether it is tomorrow, this year or next year, when UNN delivers on its objectives, consumers across the country will likely have an enhanced customer experience – faster speed, lower latency, improved device capacity, and attractive reformation of tariffs and service packages.

This article was first published on 02 April 2022 in our Weekly Epaper issue 187 | 


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