Winner: A Radio Bypass

A Malaysian Internet service provider sidesteps its biggest competitor

10 min read
Photo of Jaring’s CEO, Mohamed Bin Awang Lah [left], and wireless manager, Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Nor.
A High Wireless Act: The Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, skyline is growing, with buildings like the Petronas Twin Towers (background). Invisibly, the air is also being filled with radio signals from a new wireless broadband service from Jaring, a large Internet service provider. Here, Jaring’s CEO, Mohamed Bin Awang Lah (left), and wireless manager, Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Nor, stand in front of some of the radio equipment that forms the network
Photo: Edmund Leong/Untold Images

“We had to,” says Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Nor. This man of few words is the wireless broadband manager at Jaring, Malaysia’s second-largest Internet service provider, and I’ve just asked him why his company is creating a 1-megabit-per-second wireless service. We’re on the roof of a 33-story office building in downtown Kuala Lumpur to look at the antennas and radios that make up one of the network’s 10 base stations in this city.

“We had to,” he repeats and starts walking ahead of me, down an open-air corridor cluttered with steam pipes and air ducts. A 3-meter-high wall blocks our view of the famous Petronas Twin Towers, for a few years the tallest office buildings in the world. Suddenly he stops and turns, his arms at his sides, palms up, a gesture of resigned explanation. “Ninety-eight percent.” That’s the portion of the broadband market owned by Jaring’s competitor, Telekom Malaysia Berhad, the national carrier, also based in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a tiny market at the moment, made up of only about 350 000 households in this nation of 24 million. But Telekom Malaysia has 98 percent of it. Right now, three out of every 10 Internet users in the country is a Jaring customer, but just about all of them use dial-up modems. It’s only a matter of time until they demand faster connections. Jaring thus needs to do something before 98 percent of its customers jump ship. It needs a network of its own. And unlike its competitor, it’s going wireless.

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