BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Broadband usage is up 300 percent compared to two years ago in large part due to the pandemic, said the second minister of finance and economy. 

“The beginning of COVID-19 last year saw a lot of people getting a home [broadband] connection and the usage naturally has also increased,” YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said on Saturday.

As Brunei faces a second wave of coronavirus cases, schools and workplaces have been ordered to move online since August 9.

Network provider UNN has carried out a series of upgrades to cater for increased broadband demand since August 12, but users have consistently complained of service interruptions to both mobile and and fixed broadband networks. 

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, UNN and telco regulator Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry (AITI) said the data volume in Brunei’s broadband network has tripled in the past three years and is currently 50 percent higher compared to 12 months ago.

Noting that many people are working from home, UNN and AITI said the broadband network traffic also increased 20 percent from 8pm to midnight.

After a series of UNN upgrades to the broadband network, AITI said tests have showed an improvement in the subscribed speed from 24 percent on August 12 to 85 percent on August 15 from 8pm to midnight.

Mobile users also faced service disruption on Sunday, which was attributed to “one of the routers experiencing memory allocation failure”.

“Apart from that, the mobile network is in the state of modernisation with more than half of all base stations in the country already upgraded,” the statement read.

On Saturday, Dato Amin said UNN has built new underground cables since April of last year and that half of mobile network base stations have been upgraded “multiple times” compared to two years ago.

He added that if the COVID-19 situation improves after the two-week partial lockdown, workplaces can consider letting more people back into the office.

“But if the cases are increasing, then we have to look at how we can allow more people to work from home.”

When asked about the civil service introducing “digital offices”, the minister said it is part of the government’s digital masterplan but that transformation would take time.

“It’s not like we have a crisis now then the next day we can switch to a digital office.

“The plan will take some time but it is in the government’s plans to try to digitalise as much as possible. That is all that I can answer.” 

This article was updated at 9.56am on August 18, 2021 to include details from UNN and AITI’s joint statement.