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Thursday, April 1, 2021

MyIX bemoans loss after tech giants skip Malaysia for major project


The Malaysia Internet Exchange (MyIX) lamented a forthcoming submarine cable project in the Southeast Asia region as a lost investment opportunity for Malaysia.

To this, its chairperson Chiew Kok Hin renewed its call for the government to reinstate the cabotage exemption for highly specialised ships that maintain such infrastructure.

“It's a shame as Malaysia has strengths in Internet infrastructure due to our strategic geographical location, ease of access, English-speaking population and relatively lower cost of entry," Chiew said, according to Bernama yesterday.

On Monday, it was reported that Facebook and Google are jointly planning new submarine cables that would connect Singapore and Indonesia to North America.

According to Reuters, this is a follow-up to Facebook’s previous investments to boost connectivity in Indonesia, and the new investments would increase connectivity for the country’s central and eastern provinces.

It would also increase overall trans-Pacific subsea capacity by about 70 percent.

Facebook Network Investments vice-president Kevin Salvadori reportedly declined to disclose the size of the investment but said it was “a very material investment for us in Southeast Asia”.

One cable named “Echo” is being built by Facebook, Google and Indonesian telecommunications’ company XL Axiata and should be completed by 2023.

The other named “Bifrost” is being done in partnership between Facebook, Indonesia’s Telin and Singaporean conglomerate Keppel. It is due for completion in 2024.

Previously, tech giants including Microsoft, Google and Facebook - as well as the internet exchange MyIX - have lobbied Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to reinstate the cabotage exemption.

The exemption was granted by the Pakatan Harapan administration on April 1, 2019, to help expedite the repair of undersea cables that connect Malaysia’s internet infrastructure to the rest of the world.

This is because no Malaysian vessel had the capability to undertake such repairs quickly.

However, the policy was reversed by Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, who said the cabotage policy would reduce Malaysia’s reliance on foreign ships and help develop local expertise in submarine cable repair.

The Malaysia Shipowners Association backed Wee’s decision.

Meanwhile, in his latest statement, Chiew said the cabotage policy is inconsistent with Malaysia’s MyDigital framework and will need to be addressed soon if the country is to attract more submarine cable investments.

“MyDigital is a strategic step in the right direction to further grow Malaysia’s digital economy and is anticipated to contribute 22.6 percent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product while creating 500,000 new jobs.

“To achieve this aspiration, Malaysia would need very stable internet infrastructure that’s robust and reliable as internet usage would inevitably surge in the years ahead for government, businesses and the rakyat,” Chiew said. - Mkini

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