TNB Connectivity foray “Slightly misunderstood”

Tenaga Nasional’s Head of ICT Strategy and Partnerships, Muhammad Fahzan Abdul Hamid, wanted to draw attention to recent news about TNB entering the connectivity game. “It’s a misconception. We’ve seen newspapers report slightly misunderstood news.”

He explained that TNB has been invited by the relevant ministries to be involved in efforts to expand high-speed broadband penetration nationwide.

“The government sees the potential of leveraging our fibre infrastructure across the country, to help increase numbers.

“But we are not going into retail broadband.”

The idea is that TNB provides open access by allowing customer-facing telcos to use TNB’s fibre optics, and connect it to consumers.

Fahzan said, “We haven’t decided whether we are going to go massive mode with this. There are three areas we are assessing at the moment – technical, cybersecurity and commercial.”

An ongoing pilot in Jasin, Melaka is just the right mix of rural, residential and government communities, and when it ends in December 2018, TNB expects to have thoroughly assessed the viability of offering open broadband access.

“We are offering our infra in areas where Telekom Malaysia (TM) has no presence. For example, there is no Telekom Malaysia access connectivity in Jasin. So, why don’t retail telcos and even TM use our access?”

Further potential

TNB currently uses their fibre infrastructure to link up communications between their hundreds of substations nationwide. They aim to have 25,000 substations by 2025, in Peninsular Malaysia alone.

This implies to their ability to also link up more than just substations all over the country, an Internet of Things network for example, involving surveillance cameras, for example.

Fahzan said, “We know the potential business models of an IoT network. But our board of directors is very cautions about going into this.

“Mainly because we are given the mandate to serve electricity supply to Malaysians. We can’t simply go into the telco business at the expense of our core business which is electricity.”

Not so simple

Hence the vigorous ongoing studies at the moment are crucial.

“We want to see if this involvement can adhere to our safety and security requirements and standards,” Fahzan emphasised, reminding also that TNB IT is serving a critical national installation.

Infrastructure equipment for nationwide SCADA systems and tele-protection would have to be separated from broadband equipment, for example.

“We see the convergence of utility and telco with trends like IoT; more and more sensors and devices are being attached to our plants and transformers. Hence, we need connectivity. But it comes with cybersecurity risks!

He concluded, “We can’t embark upon connecting more and more ‘things’ without studying further into the aspect of risks.”

The same intention should also be applied to any other IoT project that happens/is going to happen in Malaysia.