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Price aside, our telco’s service quality is a pain

April 17, 2015

While lauding Shabery Cheek’s aim to lower telcos prices, this reader says telcos should focus more on delivering better service quality to customers instead.

COMMENT

Shabery Cheek

By Hafidz Baharom

With Datuk Seri Shabery Cheek (Minister of Communication and Multimedia) now talking of price reductions in the telco sector, I believe it is time that he also addresses a hot button topic among telco customers; the Fair Usage policy for both wireless broadband and mobile SIM cards.

While fibre optic cable services or landed lines provided by Maxis, Unifi and even Time have unlimited data, the wireless services provided by telcos are hindered by a quota system, on and off peak hours which is bizarre.

And quite frankly, it is making large profits for these companies at the public’s expense.

There are already companies which ended this practice in 2011, making our industry at least four years behind. In London, you could even buy an unlimited LTE prepaid SIM card for £30.

The ministry must not just look into the fair usage doctrine, but also its service quality.

Looking at our neighbours, both Thailand and Singapore. I have on more than one occasion mentioned how I wished they had opened up shop here.

Our telco industry, believe it or not, is hampered by the mollycoddling of our government. In addition to the government actually sponsoring the construction of telco infrastructure, it is allowing telcos to make handsome profits akin to toll concessionaires in the past. And we all know what a headache that has become today.

Shabery needs to consider the fact that there was once no drive in the industry to expand the infrastructure throughout the nation, and as such, perhaps government funding was the way to go then.

But even with government sponsorship and the lofty goal of former minister Rais Yatim in pushing for 80 per cent national coverage for broadband, black spots are still aplenty in both Kuala Lumpur and even Penang Island.

That being said, I would recommend the ministry to do a full review of the telco sector from a consumer’s point of view.

For myself personally, I would give three recommendations.

Firstly, end the fair usage policy for wireless broadband. It has nothing to do with the network infrastructure being unable to cope. It is instead a cash cow for our telcos.

Second, set a deadline and a fine for those who fail to activate building networks within two months of it obtaining a certificate of fitness. I’ve asked this question to Unifi on Twitter as well as WhatsApp and the lack of response shows perhaps there is no such requirement.

With more Malaysians opting for small office/home office business models instead of the old fashioned brick and mortar investment of a separate office, surely you would concur that the above is unforgivable.

Thirdly, a harsher penalty for telcos for dropped calls and black spots in their service area. The industry has been maturing for a decade and yet I still cannot get service at Dataran Merdeka?

Bizarre and unforgivable.

For far too long, our telcos have been stuck with a “jaguh kampung” mentality. And for far too long, we have been paying for it while Malaysians who have been abroad scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with our country.

So, Datuk Seri, with your approach to reduce prices, hopefully you would find some time to raise these issues as well for all of us.

Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader

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