Jalenas Picks Up Steam in Fibre Rollout
By Charles Moreira
After its rather fitful first 30 months till February this year, Jalur Lebar Nasional Sdn. Bhd. (Jalenas) is now steaming ahead confidently in deployment of its high-speed fibre broadband network.
Its executive director Heikal M. Ali admitted to a report Just Read in June by blogger Jailani, that Jalenas staff were on half-pay or not being paid for two to three months, while some had left.
“Yes, we went through a rough spell in 2011 and till February but are OK now,” he told Enterprise IT News at the company’s Hari Raya Open House on 14 September. However, its former chief executive officer James Angelone and former chief technology officer Niclas Sonnesson had left after their two-year contracts ended.
Picture: From let to right – Syed Ahmad Fuad Al Khalid Jalenas Director of Sales & Marketing,
Heikal M. Ali, Jalenas Executive Director and Razi Alwi, Jalenas Director of Finance
A sign that things are looking up was the MoU Jalenas signed in July with Malaysian distributor Metroverse Sdn. Bhd. to supply it with RM850 million worth of fibre-related products and solutions from PacketFront Software Solutions AB, Sweden over the five years.
Officially launched in Kuantan, Pahang by Malaysia’s prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on 4 August, 2009, Jalenas is an exclusively open-access Fibre to the Home (FTTH) network operator which sells usage of its network to retail service providers (RSPs) at wholesale rates and in turn these RSPs sell their respective retail services to their subscribers at their own rates, while Jalenas remains in the background. However, to ensure open-access, it does not lease its network to them, which would give them right to exclusivity.
This open-access strategy appears to be paying off for Jalenas, which now has five telecommunication service provider clients – i.e. Jaring, Celcom Axiata, Packet One Networks (P1), Tune Talk and Samata Communications which have signed 20-year agreements with Jalenas.
Jaring is Malaysia’s first Internet service provider, Celcom one of the biggest cellular network operators, P1 is Malaysia’s first WiMAX operator, Tune Talk is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) riding on Celcom’s network and Samata is a new MVNO which provides its Clixter telecommunications service over DiGi’s network.
It’s also currently in discussions with two other big network operators which it cannot name for now. In line with its spirit of open-access, Jalenas would also welcome Telekom Malaysia and Time dotCom as its clients.
Both Jaring and Celcom currently provide fixed voice telephony and broadband Internet service to end users and hitherto cellular operator Celcom will officially launch its Celcom First Home fixed service in Kuantan at the end of this month or in early October. They also have plans to provide Internet Protocol TV (IP-TV) service later, while the others could provide similar dual- or triple-play services to their customers.
The network currently supports 100 Mbps symmetrical bandwidth, while its FTTH, active-Ethernet topology lets Jalenas guarantee bandwidth consistency with service-level agreements, instead of than best-effort.
Jalenas’ network topology is truly open-access point-to-point FTTH, which has a dedicated fibre running from its’ central office (exchange) to the DRG in each subscriber’s home or office in hub and spoke fashion.
PacketFront’s technology lets end-users self-subscribe to and unsubscribe from multiple services from multiple operators over the same fibre and digital residential gateway (DRG) in their home through a portal.
For instance, there’s an end-user in Kuantan who subscribes to both Jaring and Celcom services over the same fibre, while in Sweden subscribers can choose among 179 services from 25 service providers.
The open-access model which separates infrastructure operators from RSPs is used in developed countries such as Sweden, the United States, South Korea, Singapore and others to provide a level playing field for big and niche RSPs alike to provide services to end-users, unlike in Malaysia where network operators beside Jalenas provide capacity at wholesale rates to their competitors and also compete with them for retail subscribers, thus resulting in conflicts of interest.
Also, while all this is currently available over Jalenas’ only network in Kuantan, the scope of its deal with these five RSPs is nationwide and they will have a bearing on the deployment of Jalenas’ network in other parts of Malaysia, including in housing estates, in addition to its own deployment plans.
While still far short of a network deployed in up to 10 major Malaysian cities and towns at the end of 2011, as claimed by Angelone in September 2010, Jalenas’ network now passes 1,000 homes in Kuantan, of which over 150 are currently connected to it. Jalenas has issued up to 5,000 works orders to contractors to further extend its network and it targets 31,100 homes passed in Kuantan by mid-2014.
“Concurrently we’ve conducted surveys in Johor Baru while also talking to property developers there and expect to begin deployment from the end of the year and eventually target 260,000 homes passed. After that, we plan to deploy in Malaysia’s other big cities and aim for our network to eventually pass 2.5 million homes by the end of 2016,” said Syed Ahmad Fuad Al Kharid, Jalenas director of Sales & Marketing.
Also thanks to its curent five clients, Jalenas sees growing demand from the Klang Valley, so could deploy here in 2013, ahead of schedule.
Problem getting loans
Jalenas holds Network Facilities Provider (NFP), Network Service Provider (NSP), Application Service Provider (ASP) and a Cable Landing Station licenses from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission so can freely deploy its network anywhere. However, in line with its open-access commitment, it does not exercise its NSP and ASP licenses.
“We also have the no issue with using proven PacketFront solution and had engaged a qualified technical team, including a Swedish and American expert to train our local technical crew for two years,” said Heikal.
However, obtaining loans for network deployment is a bit of a problem due to local banks which don’t quite understand the open-access concept and wit there being no local precedence of funding such operators. Besides that, Heikal had also heard that local banks were unwilling to finance Jalenas, even though it had met all conditions, due to a network operator, which threatened to withhold its custom from them if they did. So Jalenas is also looking overseas for finance.
Jalenas’ early days were marred by some hiccups over technology and funding partners.
When it was launched, it had signed a deal with Ericsson which would provide the technology for its network and manage its deployment and operation. However, Ericsson offered an FTTH over GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) topology, which uses passive splitters to share a fibre between multiple premises like the branches of a tree and which is prone to bandwidth degradation during heavy use, which did not meet Jalenas’ requirement for truly open-access point-to-point FTTH.
In April 2010, Jalenas and Maipu Communication Technology Co. Ltd. (MAIPU) of Szechuan Province, China both announced a strategic partnership, whereby MAIPU would provide its solution but it also offered FTTH over GPON, so also did not meet Jalenas’ requirement.
So Jalenas now owns and operates its network, with PacketFront as its technology partner, since it provides a truly open-access system which allows multiple service providers to deliver multiple services and content to the end users, with very minimum or no human intervention.
Founded in 2007, Jalenas is jointly owned by the Pahang State Government (20%), Bumi Raya Resources Sdn. Bhd. (60%) and Fabilanis Sdn. Bhd. (20%).