More than 80 per cent of villages in Brunei now have mobile coverage, the minister of communications said on Monday, attributing the growing mobile access to continuous improvements in infrastructure and partnerships with telco service providers.

“At the moment, 341 villages out of 432 in Brunei have access to mobile coverage,” YB Abdul Mutalib Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Hj Mohammad Yusof said. He noted that there is still room for improvement and are looking into areas with weak or disrupted coverage.

Earlier this month, Progresif Cellular opened a new tower along the Telisai-Lumut Highway, with plans to erect three more to boost connectivity. The area previously had no mobile coverage.

According to YB Abdul Mutalib, his ministry is targeting for the communications sector to contribute up to three per cent of total  national gross domestic product (GDP) by 2035.  In 2016, the communications sector contributed 1.69 per cent of GDP. Meanwhile, target for the transport sector is set at five per cent, its 2016 data indicate a 1.88 per cent GDP contribution.

For the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the Ministry of Communications has proposed a budget of $54.8 million, a reduction of more than 60 per cent from its previous year’s allocation of $122 million.

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However, the ministry said it is focused on delivering innovative and cost-efficient solutions to drive down its spending. This includes more public-private partnerships and  looking into the feasibility of privatising some of its services.