[Written in partnership with MaGIC, but the editorial team had full control over the content.]
While internet connectivity has long been considered a luxury, the pandemic has revealed its necessity, making broadband a public service, just like water and electricity.
Until December 2017, Telekom Malaysia (TM) controlled 90% of the country’s broadband market share, creating near-monopoly conditions. A few new entrants have arrived, but most users still depend on TM’s infrastructure.
It depends iFIBER, a licensed Malaysian telecommunications company creating an open access network so that users can easily switch between multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as needed. The service is inspired by Vumatel, a South African startup that has overthrown the broadband monopoly in this region.
iFIBER said that with little competition, consumers suffer from slow connections, spotty coverage and inflexible contracts. For example, Malaysia’s average internet speed is 93.67 Mbps, while Thailand and Singapore average 308.35 Mbps and 245.31 Mbps respectively.
Poor internet coverage allowed people in rural areas to find ways to have a stable connection, and one event that made waves in the news was when Sabahan student Veveonah Mosibin (Veve) climbed in a tree to take an online exam. The inflexible plans also force users to be stuck in 24-month contracts where they face hefty penalties for early termination.
Today, iFIBER has set itself the goal of tackling these issues, with the aim of providing flexibility and accessibility to its customers.
This is how it works
IFIBER’s role in improving Malaysia’s internet connectivity is to build the infrastructure and be a broadband fiber provider for businesses and individuals. The company, while not an ISP itself, is content to offer the hardware and set up services for end users.
Having an open access network means that multiple ISPs can offer broadband services using the same infrastructure. Consumers can switch ISPs at any time without installing new modems, routers, or cables.
At the same time, iFIBER launched its own brand of ISP, VeVe Telecom. It was named after the aforementioned Sabahan student and offers a monthly subscription plan as opposed to the usual long term contracts.
The brand works with 2 types of real estate markets, greenfield apartments (new projects) and brownfield (old buildings).
For completely new apartments, equipment like fiber optic cables and WiFi routers are preinstalled in buildings via iFIBER’s partnerships with new real estate developments. Here, users will have access to a plug and play model.
To access its services, users will have to subscribe through its marketplace and choose between broadband services with different pricing structures and offers. From there, his team claim that the service will be activated in 20 seconds.
For old apartments with copper cable already installed, the startup will lay new fiber optic cables to the home according to customer demand.
To stimulate growth, iFIBER offers free installations during its current pre-construction period. This is where the apartments will be pre-installed with a modem and wifi router ready for customers subscribed to VeVe Telecom. Otherwise the installation fee will cost RM150.
Already generated RM 1 million in revenue in Sabah
iFIBER started its proof of concept (PoC) at Magic in January 2018, where his team developed the open source software backend system at Cyberjaya’s facilities. The startup also launched its first Cyberjaya Gigabit City pilot project in April 2018.
From there, they used MaGIC’s facilities to demonstrate the concept of open access to real estate developers and state governments. The demonstration earned iFIBER a contract from a Sabahan real estate developer who operates and manages 12,000 apartments.
“The majority of Sabah’s broadband market still uses copper and we have seen an opportunity that 80% of Sabah residents do not yet have fiber-optic infrastructure and are dependent on mobile broadband with lower internet speeds. at 10 Mbps, “said Shaharin Saman, CEO of iFIBER.
This large-scale facility successfully secured 1,500 iFIBER subscribers in Kota Kinabalu, generating RM 1 million in revenue after 8 months.
iFIBER now plans to raise Ringgit 10 million from investors to complete a total funding of Ringgit 50 million to expand the open access network in Sabah. If its plan works as planned, it will reach 150,000 users by the end of 2022.
With this funding, it will also deploy its infrastructure to homes and businesses in the Klang Valley along the MRT line from Sg Buloh Road to Kajang in the first quarter of 2022. Through this project, it aims to enable 4,000 buildings with about 500,000 housing units with its network -access.
“With the experience we have in Sabah, we are confident that the open access network concept will be well accepted by the residents of Kuala Lumpur who prefer flexibility, multiple choice of ISPs, [and] monthly services instead of 24-month long-term contracts[whicharecurrentlynotavailabletoresidentsofKlangValley”SaharintoVulcanPost[whicharecurrentlynotavailableforKlangValleyresidents”ShaharintoldVulcanPost[quinesontactuellementpasdisponiblespourlesrésidentsdelavalléedeKlang»adéclaréShaharinàVulcanPost[whicharecurrentlynotavailableforKlangValleyresidents”ShaharintoldVulcanPost
To complete its broadband connectivity setup, iFIBER is also deploying an in-house content company known as IGG Arena. It will function as a virtual eSports platform integrated with 400 game publishers.
Shaharin added that this is iFIBER’s marketing strategy to convert eSports players who download iGG Arena software into open access network users.
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Many often complain about their internet (our Vulcan post office included), but don’t switch ISPs on a whim. Although this may be due to the long contracts of their ISPs, education is still lacking on the solutions available in the market.
iFIBER is emulating a successful business in South Africa, where 70 ISPs jumped into its open access network, including the country’s monopoly at the time (according to data provided by the company).
While it may seem like iFIBER is trying to do too much with its hardware setup, software integration, and eSport business, every branch completes itself. The latter will help it to attract an existing player market in Malaysia, which is a target market that needs a strong internet connection.
To add, it’s a smart move by the start-up to partner with real estate developers to integrate its equipment into new buildings, giving residents the option to use its move-in services if they see fit. .
iFIBER must now increase its brand awareness and further educate Malaysians that there are better options, and it must live up to its word of being the best option to access ISPs.
- You can learn more about iFIBER here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups that we have featured here.
Image Credit Featured: Shaharin Saman and Wan Mohalina, CEO and Managing Director of iFIBER