BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Unified National Networks, the government-linked company that now manages all of Brunei’s telecommunications infrastructure, has said it is moving forward with “full modernisation” of the country’s telco infrastructure in a bid to improve the quality and speed of mobile networks.
In a statement issued Tuesday, UNN said it is still in the process of “unifying and stabilising” network operations transferred from the existing three telcos: DST, Progresif and Telbru.
Projects carried out over the past several months will allow these service providers equal access to network infrastructure and the ability to offer both fixed and mobile services to the public, the company said.
“As wholesale service provider, we pave ways to provide the necessary facilities and broaden the network with the latest technologies,” said UNN CEO Dr Steffen Oehler.
“Together with the stakeholders we will co-create the innovations for infrastructure and services in Brunei Darussalam. It is then up to the telecommunication companies to offer attractive packages to consumers and penetrate the market in a fair competition.”
Rumours of layoffs ‘unsubstantiated’
Both UNN and its parent company Darussalam Assets have strongly denied rumors circulated widely on social media that employees from the existing three telcos will be retrenched as a result of the network consolidation.
“We are currently active in recruiting local talents from the three existing telecommunication companies to fill all the positions in the organisation,” Oehler added.
UNN’s senior management was recruited from Europe’s largest telecommunications provider Deutsche Telekom Group, which is acting as UNN’s technical partner for the transformation of Brunei’s ICT sector.
“The current management team was brought in mainly to execute the main task which is to get UNN operational and functional at a given time,” the CEO said.
“UNN started as a new company from scratch. We want to work together with the local experts to build a performant organisation and to pass the baton in due time to local hands.”
The team will spearhead the transition before handing it over to a “fully Bruneian management team” within a timeline of five years, said UNN.
The decision to bring in Deutsche Telekom Group to manage the transition — and the wider impact industry transformation will have on employment in the telco sector — has sparked a flurry of negative commentary online, prompting both Darussalam Assets and UNN to issue statements in the past few days addressing the issue.
On Friday, Darussalam Assets decried “malicious rumors” that were a “deliberate attempt” to mislead the public on important national issues.
“Claims that employees of the telecommunications companies will be ‘laid off’, ‘fired’ or ‘forced to quit’ are completely false and unsubstantiated.
“It is the commitment of Darussalam Assets, as the shareholder of [all of Brunei’s] telecommunication companies, that no one will be laid off as a result of the transformation. This was made clear to all employees in February earlier this year and has been communicated repeatedly since then.”
Launching the UNN brand
UNN has started branding its infrastructure in public spaces across the country, prominently displaying its logo on buildings, towers and base stations.
The company also recently launched its website as “important tool to reach out to public”, where people can read up on UNN’s mission, services and future job vacancies.
The telco said it is currently carrying out upgrades on existing infrastructure to improve service quality and speed in the mobile network.
“A full modernisation of the infrastructure is planned but immediate improvements where possible in short-term will be made in the coming weeks,” UNN said.
In the mid-term, the company said it “aims to make services available everywhere” by building more towers in underserved areas to provide greater access to mobile and internet services.
UNN added it has also begun early stakeholder engagement regarding the introduction of 5G technology.
“The organisation is fully committed to develop and empower the Brunei Smart Nation initiatives and support talents across all segments. We believe that through modernising the network infrastructure and investing in new technologies, we can significantly elevate the quality and array of services provided in the country, with better affordability and accessibility.”