| Siti Hajar |
SINCE its first roll-out in 2012, the country’s Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) initiative under one of TelBru’s main projects has made significant strides with more and more of the country’s population getting better acquainted with this relatively new piece of technological evolution.
But despite the positive expansion in customer volume with almost 23,000 present connections in a number of densely populated areas throughout the nation, it was expressed yesterday that more can still be done to ensure that the process to reach the FTTH-connection target accelerates.
In an interview with TelBru’s Chief Technology Officer Dr Michael Mertsch, it was explained that the challenges the initiative has faced and is currently facing come in the form of what is known as the ‘Right of Way’ approval that requires the telecommunications service provider to liaise with a number of different agencies to ensure that their respective plans can be developed in unison without major interference of other aspects of national development.
“There are a multitude of permits that need to be solved,” he said but also acknowledged that the effort “is not complicated but it requires a lot of time” as it includes layout conditions for FTTH deployment against other utilities such as water and gas pipes as well as power supplies under the jurisdictions of the Public Works Department in general and Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd in the country’s oil district.
Among the recommendations that he voiced based on observation and experience includes developing smaller teams within these establishments “rather than dealing with separate entities” especially for the purposes of expediting the paperwork process, which becomes more complicated based on the complexity of the installations.
On their part, it was explained that TelBru has plans to set up its own focus group and teams to address issues such as this, which also includes establishing faster reaction times to objections stemming from concerns with other development projects within certain areas.
Progress, however, has been made on this particular front with Dr Mertsch emphasising that approval time has been shortened from months to mere weeks, attributed to a better understanding of TelBru’s objectives in providing, not just the customers, but the country as a whole with added services to better facilitate the country’s different levels of growth including societal as well as economic.
“Public administration around the world is never straight forward or easy,” he pointed out, “especially with new processes or activities or even counterparts and these agencies are trying to help and support us in this and they have accommodated us.
“The fact that they have to coordinate a number of utilities is not an easy process and they are doing what is in their hands and within their limitations.”
With the end of the year fast approaching, TelBru has been busy planning their next plan of action for the year 2015 and approval to begin installations have already either been granted, applied for and in the midst of preparations for a number of key areas as part of the Phase II rollout to take place next year – subject to change – including areas in Kg Salar in Seria commencing from April, Medewa from July onwards and Sg Taring/Sg Liang starting in October.
The present status of the FTTH rollout, meanwhile, has taken the Jerudong and Sengkurong areas by storm over the past months with 90 per cent coverage in the former and a further 65 per cent in the latter, both of which scheduled to receive full coverage by the end of this year and by the end of January respectively.
“At the current pace that we are working at sees us achieving between 100 to 300 installations per week,” which is also dependent upon customer requests with the outlook, as with the country’s general migration towards a more tech-savvy society, predicting a growth of FTTH interest among the populace for both domestic and business utilisation. Other areas that were once not within the installation scope due to several justifications, he added, will be given further consideration.
With a vision that aims to introduce High Speed Broadband and basic connectivity benefits to every customer, and eventually every individual in the Sultanate, it was also explained that TelBru is looking towards adopting different technologies to service a number of far-to-reach and less densely populated areas, indicating that the team is hard at work to better provide for a growing population whose inhabitants are steadily becoming more information-hungry with each passing generation.
“We may not be able to connect everyone in the true sense of the word to fibre optics and high speed broadband but we are trying to ensure that the vast majority is able to connect to the Internet grid,” with current customer feedback being generally positive.