CM: Remaining 116 telco towers under SMA300 initiative expected to be completed by 3Q of 2021


Abang Johari delivers his opening address at IDECS 2020. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Oct 7): The remaining 116 telecommunication towers under the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) 300 telecommunication tower initiative are expected to be completed by the third quarter (3Q) of 2021, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said 184 of these towers have been completed since the Sarawak government rolled out the initiative as part of the state’s digital economy strategy.

“On Sept 26, I launched our first fully operational telecommunication tower service at Luban Ulu, Betong.

“The rural community there will now enjoy 3G/4G service, compared to the Edge service in the past and this will be duplicated in underserved areas throughout Sarawak through this SMA300 initiative,” he said in his opening address at the 4th International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) 2020 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

He pointed out that putting up these telecommunication towers has not been without challenges.

“It doesn’t mean that the government can simply put up a tower as we like, no matter how well-intended the project is to the underserved community.

“We had to go through great effort to get the buy-ins of landowners and acquire land where potential sites were identified.

“Then, there are still relevant laws and regulatory processes to comply with. Furthermore, the project has been delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic Movement Control Order (MCO),” he said.

But despite the current handicaps, he said the Sarawak government has the political will to enhance connectivity through new policies and initiatives such as the allocation of RM3 million to upgrade internet connectivity in nine national parks of Sarawak.

Abang Johari said he had also held discussions with Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah for SMA and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to have closer collaboration on addressing internet connectivity issues for Sarawak.

“SMA and MCMC have agreed in principle on the urgent need to accelerate broadband connectivity to underserved areas in Sarawak,” he added.

He also said the rollout of the additional Phase 2 of the SMA300 telecommunication towers initiative is still in the planning stage.

“However, upon completion, the 600 towers will complement the existing National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (Jendela) initiatives by the federal government, that include 636 new towers.

“Thus, this strategic partnership will realise the state’s vision of achieving 99.9 per cent broadband coverage throughout Sarawak,” he said.

Apart from that, he said the state government has established free WiFi connectivity for a number of villages or longhouses in Sarawak to accelerate internet connectivity to underserved rural communities.

“Through this initiative each kampung will share a bandwidth of 30mbps. To date 20 kampungs or longhouses have been digitally connected to access internet, government services as well as Sarawak Pay,” he said.

He also noted that just last month, he had announced and allocated an additional RM50 million for the installation of mini satellite stations, otherwise known as Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) to further improve connectivity in underserved rural areas.

“I believe that installing VSAT stations is the best way to solve the problem of poor internet connectivity in rural areas quickly,” he said.

Also present at the event were Deputy Chief Ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, State Legislative Assembly Speaker Datuk Amar Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar, State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion and Deputy State Secretary Datu Dr Sabariah Putit, who is also IDECS 2020 chairperson.