[COVER STORY] Closing The Digital Gap With Open Access

Allo’s Chief Executive Officer Rodzi Ahmad

Allo’s Chief Executive Officer Rodzi Ahmad speaks to BusinessToday on the journey the company has undertaken since 2018 in bridging the digital divide in the country, and what the future holds for the telecommunications infrastructure service provider.

Formerly known as Setia Haruman Technology Sdn Bhd, Allo Technology Sdn Bhd (Allo) was formed to facilitate the development of smart cities through reliable telecommunication infrastructure and provides a range of ICT services including system integration, networking, and consultancy.

In 2018, the company undertook a more serious role, having been acquired by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) as the utility company wanted to go beyond the energy meter business.  

The company soon saw increased success after becoming TNB’s subsidiary and had aggressively planned to expand their fibre optimisation service nationwide in 2019 towards becoming the preferred connectivity services partner.

“We are not looking to expand into city centres or urban areas, but instead, we are looking into those areas with no high-speed broadband services just yet,” Allo Chief Executive Officer, Rodzi Ahmad tells Business Today, claiming that it will be a challenge to make it commercially viable and cost-effective at the same time but it’s one that he has taken on assertively.

Reducing the Gap

“We want to reduce the digital divide in the country, particularly in the suburban areas, which will aid in improving the digital economy and lifestyle in the underserved areas. When we talk about underserved areas, the people in these places usually have either no broadband connection and so have to depend on their mobile connectivity, or the bandwidth provided is minimal, and not of the latest speeds.

“People in these areas also do not have the freedom to choose from a range of providers because the offerings are just limited. As part of TNB, we take pride in all initiatives that help in nation building and betterment of the people,” he says, commenting on his move to target suburban and rural areas.

Late last year, the company targeted to facilitate 150,000 homes with high-speed broadband (HSBB) connectivity by Q2 2021, leveraging on TNB’s existing 18,000 km fibre-optic infrastructure nationwide.

By leveraging on its parent company’s infrastructure, Rodzi says this in return allowed other telecommunication retail service providers (RSPs) to leverage on the shared fibre optic network.

Retail Service Providers (RSPs) and other partners including developers and business entities are collaborating with the company to expand their fibre footprint to more homes at a faster rate and efficient cost.

So far, telco giants including Maxis, Digi and Celcom have signed up to Allo’s open access model offering fixed broadband services to their end-users. The company had also formed a strategic partnership with Astro, where the satellite television provider offers its unique bundled broadband and content offering to new and existing residential areas connected by Allo. 

These partners would be leveraging Allo’s Layer 2 High-Speed Broadband (HSBB) Network Service solutions, bringing Allo’s cumulative number of homes to 150,000 by the second quarter of 2021.

Allo’s partnership allows the partners to extend their reach beyond urban areas into areas not fully covered including Alor Gajah and Jasin in Melaka, Menglembu and Silibin in Perak, as well as Kulim and Amanjaya in Kedah. The demand was also buoyed by suburban marked demand which doubled compared to the previous year.

“Our demand surged tremendously during the period and telcos getting into our substation inlet also saw an increased reach. Our main objective was to get 50% of our open access service used by other telcos and it is now doable with the current projection,” Rodzi says. 

Besides, with more Malaysians looking for high-speed internet, the digital wave that took over businesses in the urban and industrial areas further added to the increasing demand.

The telecommunication service provider achieved better coverage and service in underserved areas in Melaka, Perak, Kedah and is now expanding into work in progress at Penang and Johor to service more homes.

“We can offer them Gigabit technology with a capability to provide symmetric passive optical access network for residential, business, mobile backhaul, and other applications. We are looking to reach out to industrial areas that are in dire need of higher speeds in our bid to support IR4.0 and we are currently preparing to launch our multigigabit broadband offerings within this year” Rodzi says.

Priorities and Future Ventures

“Our business priority for now is to focus on our open access model by leveraging on TNB’s infrastructure as much as we can.

With the recent MyDigital announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Allo is looking to gear up to contribute their share towards the digital transformation Malaysia is undergoing.

“When 5G arrives, fibres are required to gain access to more than 100 Gbps of connectivity and we can ensure that by laying out our fibre optics for end-users to achieve that speed. We are definitely keeping our eyes open to any 5G developments and we certainly hope to be part of the programme when it kicks off in Malaysia,” he tells Business Today. 

“We are still an infant in the industry and our main focus is to fiberise the areas that have yet to have high speed broadband. Indirectly, we are complementing the giants in supporting the broadband initiative and giving the end-users more options in choosing their preferred service provider. This fibre optimisation plan can lead to enabling 5G services when the time comes,” he says. 

“To reduce the gap at underserved areas to reach millions of homes is a challenge and so we are looking to cover the suburban, rural and industrial areas while our peers continue their work in the cities nationwide,” the CEO shares.

 Rodzi also believes that there will come a time when these services will expand beyond suburban areas and preparation to move towards big developments are already underway. Allo is looking to leverage its parent company’s capabilities in terms of providing energy for developments while Rodzi and his team equip them with fibre optimization.

“Our goal is to have every Malaysian connected the moment the lights are switched on,” Rodzi concludes.

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