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The Covid-19 pandemic has raised the importance of connectivity as an essential utility, according to MyIX, Malaysia’s first neutral internet exchange.
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Chiew Kok Hin, chairman of MyIX, said the various phases of Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO) have been particularly challenging, with internet traffic surging to 588Gbps, surpassing 2019’s peak traffic of 500Gbps.
“We needed to ensure constant connectivity and at desired internet speeds,” said Chiew. “Demand for internet connectivity throughout Malaysia touched unprecedented levels during the MCO.”
Chiew said this high demand stemmed from households consuming more audio-visual content, coupled with e-learning initiatives and videoconferencing calls.
This confirmed a major shift in demand for internet services from the workplace to the home since the first phase of the MCO, which started on 18 March 2020.
With demand for stable connectivity at sufficient speeds being a priority for the nation, Chiew said the telco sector is playing a key role in maintaining a level of normality.
“The MyIX infrastructure was classified as critical national infrastructure and security was also strengthened in line with guidance from the National Security Council,” he said.
Rising to the current challenge, some MyIX member telcos have been progressively upgrading their infrastructure to meet demand from households, said Chiew. Some telcos have also added more ports at MyIX to alleviate traffic congestion.
Looking ahead, he said: “MyIX and the telecommunications operators will continue doing their best to ensure uninterrupted connectivity during the remainder of the MCO, and even post-MCO.
“My suggestion is for the government to collaborate further with private internet service providers and offer them incentives to roll out faster internet and mobile coverage in rural areas.”
Chiew noted that the MCO has shown that internet coverage should be regarded as a basic essential utility.
Established in 2006, MyIX operates under the auspices of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. It is also Malaysia’s only non-profit national internet exchange, operated by industry players such as Telekom Malaysia, Celcom Axiata, Digi and Maxis, among others.
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Julian Gorman, the GSM Association’s head of Asia-Pacific, told Computer Weekly in a separate interview that even as telcos are doing their part to fight the Covid-19 outbreak, they are also grappling with the impact of the coronavirus on their workforce.
Gorman said some telcos that rely on cross-border foreign workers have had to secure additional resources to support their operations, while others have been unable to send technicians to the ground to manage their networks.
In some Asia-Pacific countries, said Gorman, these technicians are not considered essential workers, even though mobile networks are recognised as essential in supporting efforts to contain the pandemic. “That has created some difficulties because allowing people to travel to sites to maintain them has not been allowed,” he said.
Adding to those challenges is the three-month delay by the 3GPP standards body in finalising Release 16 and 17 of the standalone 5G standard. Gorman said the delay will have less impact on 5G network launches than the operational issues currently affecting mobile operators.
“The main delay will come from social distancing or movement control measures that will limit their ability to build sites,” he said. “So, we expect to see some short-term impact that might turn out to be a couple of less sites at launch – but we don’t see significant delays in launches.”
Additional reporting by Aaron Tan