5G: The start of a new digital era in Brunei

Brunei begins the start of a new digital era as the 5th Generation (5G) Mobile Services are now available nationwide as of Thursday; a milestone in the development of the sultanate’s technological landscape.

The announcement was made by the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) together with Unified National Networks (UNN), Datastream Digital (DST), Imagine, and Progresif during the 12th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (IAMMSTI-12) and Digital Future Conference and Exhibition.

Held at the Indera Samudra Grand Hall of The Empire Brunei as part of the Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition 2023 (Brunei MYCE 2023), the 5G mobile services were officially launched by DST CEO Radin Sufri Radin Basiuni, Imagine Acting CEO Allen On and Progresif CEO Nurul Haniah Haji Jaafar.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Present to witness the launch were the Minister of Transport and Infocommunications, Yang Berhormat Pg Dato Seri Setia Shamhary Pg Dato Paduka Hj Mustapha and AITI Chief Executive Ir Haji Jailani Haji Buntar, UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler and relevant stakeholders.

According to a joint press release by AITI, UNN, DST, Imagine and Progresif, the telecommunications sector has made extensive preparations to ready the nation for 5G.

From the establishment of the national 5G Taskforce to the initiation of the 5G Pilot Project, Proof of Concepts (PoC) were conducted at several strategic locations.

“Partnerships (were also) established among local telecommunication companies along with strong industry players to provide the best service for their subscribers.”

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Additionally, the telecommunications network infrastructure underwent several transformation projects to provide better speed of mobile services and improve fixed network services.

These are namely the Radio Access Network (RAN) Expansion, Modernisation Programs (Fiberisation), and Virtualization & Cloud as a Technology to modernise and expand the ICT infrastructure.

“To date, 90 per cent of populated areas are covered for mobile services that are 5G-ready with continuous efforts to improve nationwide coverage,” read the statement.

The introduction of this upgraded mobile service additionally provides potential and opportunities to enhance digitalisation for everyone including individuals, businesses and communities alike to leverage the advantages of 5G technology.

Speaking to The Bruneian, UNN CEO Dr Steffen said that the significance of this change is to enable used technology to improve the digital landscape as well as economic growth, and living standards while promoting sustainable development.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

“The current infrastructure level allows people to connect the dots and use what is available to implement their ideas for innovation and virtual business, new processes and so on — that is the important part.”

“The relevant stakeholders are also proud that they can deliver to the nation on time (as) a lot of people worked hard to optimise it to make sure the service is well perceived and covers the country.”

The UNN CEO said that subscribers can expect upgraded services offered by the local telcos, tariffs as well as added benefits.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

“(This means that the) people will have a broader option and experience faster data and (over time), the public will understand that 5G is here to stay; 5G is reliable and 5G is a service that they can use for something beyond the normal mobile broadband and the use of a smartphone.”

Oehler shared that UNN is currently in discussions with a number of stakeholders and organisations in Brunei to listen to their input and ideas.

“We need to listen to what ideas they have, in order to understand how we can help through our infrastructure and expertise in some areas within the cloud, in the data centre and cyber security to help them shape their ideas into new applications and services they are providing to the public.”

He said that as an enabler, UNN is in a primed position to support members of the industry in crafting their own course.

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

Additionally, Oehler said that the introduction of 5G would not only mean stronger and faster connection but would coincide with other UNN products such as the Borneo IX, a platform offering Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), cloud providers and network operators to exchange data.

“With the Borneo IX, users can stay in Brunei while being connected to the major hubs in the world such as New York, Amsterdam, Singapore and San Francisco.”

“By having this connectivity, you can run a digital business from the sultanate because everything is in place: the connectivity to all your partners in the world,” the CEO added.

He said this example not only links elements and connectivity but provides partners with a space to host applications in the cloud while having strong cyber security.

“This ensures that your business is secure and therefore provides you with the right building blocks needed to run an actual business. (It is a platform) built by Bruneians, created for Bruneians.”

“5G facilitates it even better if you are using a mobile device but what is important is that we are heavily invested to fiberise the country with 3000 homes left as 95 per cent of all households in Brunei are connected by fibre.”

Image: Iqbal Dato Selamat

According to Chris Phan, UNN’s Senior Vice President of Network Factory, the average consumer will find that even 4G services are already very good.

“(Therefore), they might not actually feel a difference between 4G and 5G however the opportunity with 5G (is that) we are opening new markets in helping the SalesCo to sell to those markets.”

“So it is territories that they may not have explored before with the new market segments, new used cases, therefore we are enabling them to do this and start a new digital era of Brunei.”

Subscribers are encouraged to approach their respective service providers for more information on mobile plans and whether their devices are capable to access the 5G network.

“As part of the telecommunications sector’s continuous commitment towards enabling digital connectivity nationwide, there are ongoing programmes to expand telecommunication network coverage to rural areas further in order to bridge the digital divide, create more equitable access to essential services, and boost economic opportunities for all citizens,” the statement concluded.


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