Global fixed line broadband speeds have generally followed similar trends. More technology-driven countries have usually led the charge in speeds (case examples South Korea and Singapore) since it also helps them drive their economies.
Here in Malaysia we have suffered for many years under the limitations of our national broadband carrier which has struggled to cope with providing affordable broadband throughout the country. In all fairness, it requires significant investment in infrastructure to really make that work.
With the liberalisation of the broadband market, things have changed a little. More players have entered the fray and big names like Maxis are taking up the challenge. The problem is that these companies are not broadband providers at their core and rural areas are also not likely to benefit from their participation.
Malaysia Now Has Mandatory Standards On Access Pricing
Since the early days of its formation, one of the key roles of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has been to regulate the broadband industry in the country. Unfortunately, early agreements between Telekom Malaysia (TM) and the government allowed it freedom from regulation for several years.
Since then the broadband landscape has also changed of late the industry has benefitted from not just having extra players in the market but also Mandatory Standards on Access Pricing (MSAP). This means that broadband players in the market were forced to adhere to price reviews by MCMC in consultation with the public.
Since MSAP’s full implementation, broadband prices have dropped, and speeds have increased significantly. MCMC will also be keeping a close eye on mobile broadband once 5G technologies are more commercially viable in the country.
Downloads Speeds Have More Than Doubled
With the heat on broadband service providers “encouraging” them to improve services and make them more affordable, Malaysia saw a jump in fixed broadband speeds. Although we still currently rank below 30 on Ookla’s global speed index, there has been a vast improvement.
Less than a year ago, Malaysia saw download speeds on fixed broadband totter at slightly under 20Mbps average. Today, that number has jumped into the 60Mbps and 70Mbps range. A jump this significant proves that it was merely complacency on the part of broadband providers affecting speeds here.
Malaysia Will Invest RM1 Billion For Broadband Infrastructure
Budget 2019 saw the allocation of RM1 billion for infrastructure under the government’s National Firberisation and Connectivity Plan (Link contents in Bahasa Malaysia). Fibre is what most of our fixed line high speed broadband is built on these days. The move will likely achieve two main goals and that is to increase broadband speeds further and to increase access to broadband in rural areas.
Shift To Mobile Must Be Considered
Many people may be anticipating the introduction of 5G networks, but it is unlikely that this will overly reduce the demand for fixed broadband here significantly. The technology is already undergoing live testing but as with any network that requires infrastructure it will take time and money to roll out.
Look at 4G as a case example. Most 4G networks are run by commercial entities such as Maxis and even with being out in the market for so long, many areas are still white spots for 4G coverage. In fact, some mobile broadband providers are not even able to keep up regular coverage reliably in urban areas and overall, only Maxis has maintained a performance lead in mobile broadband.
What cannot be ignored though is the potential of 5G and that is a massive performance boost on mobile devices. With so much of the world going mobile, it is an area that can drive entire business model change. We can see this in how even Google has changed to a mobile-first indexing policy.
Customer Service Remains Subpar
No matter how good a service, customer support needs to be on the ball in order or there to be satisfaction along the entire product lifetime. Here in Malaysia, TM has long been a dominant provider simply because it has been the only one with the infrastructure to meet nationwide demand.
Unfortunately, this has also resulted in it having a semi-market monopoly and their lacklustre attitude towards customer service has resulted in many complaints, some of which have really seen the company with egg on their faces.
Sadly, this remains true even now and none of the other providers seem willing to step up and tweak their nose about it. The state of customer service in broadband providers here remains overall low and complaints seem to have not done much about it.
Perhaps with MCMC taking a more active role and making itself more publicly available, things will change. I am not holding my breath.
What We Look For In Broadband For Malaysia
The lifeblood of most fixed-line broadband providers, speed in Malaysia seems to matter less than general availability in many cases. I have seen users who opt to downgrade plans once lower speed, cheaper plans are available simply because they cost less.
Part of this is likely to be the shift of focus slightly more towards mobile devices, but it could also be that many users simply don’t do many things on the Internet that requires lightning-fast speeds. For Gigabit speeds, a Blu-Ray format movie will only take a few minutes – how often is that really needed?
Combine that with the fact that many of us are out most of the day at some form of work or another and that severely limits the time we must spend on home fixed line broadband. However, speed is still important if only for the fact that it is available should we need it or want it.
2. Equipment Provided
Most fixed line broadband plans in Malaysia come with equipment provided by the telco. The quality of the equipment doesn’t really differ in many cases and simply offer the consumer a steppingstone into the world of broadband.
Some telcos charge extra, or impose certain fees associated with equipment on installation and this also factors into their rating.
On a side note, many of the companies providing broadband work their installations via independent contractors who are not really part of their companies. This results in a little bit of an enigma during the installation process.
The problem here is that the quality and attitude of these contractors vary immensely, and this directly affects the brand of the telco that they are representing.
3. Customer Support
This is one crucial area where Malaysian fixed line broadband providers show very little progress. We generally gauge them based on availability of support along with the level of help able to be provided by the companies.
This includes a broad span of channels, ranging from direct calls, online channels and even service outlet performance.
Like all technology, fixed line broadband breaks down sometimes and the cause can be hardware or software related. To compound issues, broadband is something that stretches far behind a nation’s borders and international connections as well as routing points need to be considered as well.
Some broadband service providers offer value-added services along with broadband. However, some force certain services on customers while others allow detailed segmentation. The point of contention is to what extent consumers should be allowed to customize plans.
There is also the issue of quality of those services, especially when it comes to services which consumers have no option but to accept as part of the package (and hence, fees).
Ranked: The 3 Best Broadband in Malaysia
Before we begin the list and summary, I’d like to take the opportunity to highlight again that this is based on fixed line broadband service only. Companies like Maxis and TM have other product channels which are not covered under the scope of this listing.
- Speed up to 300Mbps
- Comes with IPTV
- Free voice line
"With the widest coverage, TM Unifi has improved its bandwidth and pricing over the past year."
Having used TM broadband services for many years, I’ve experienced both StreamyX and Unifi, the last being Unifi Turbo. For me, line speeds have mostly always been good and even when I was on a 50Mbps Unifi plan I was getting full download speeds over 90% of the time.
The process of installation has also been observed several times and I must say that despite popular opinion, TM does have some good contractors. The bigger issue here is that they are not able to hold their contractors to a decent standard of performance.
With all Unifi plans currently, TM offers decent starting equipment. However, this equipment may not really be able to handle wireless broadband performance for the higher speed plans so they may need to re-look at what’s on offer to those who pay more for their broadband.
Customer support is one channel that has really let TM down and there are issues all along the line ranging from corporate apathy to unskilled first responders on technical help lines. Whereas there can be expected some level of discrepancy in contractor performance, you can rely on TM call centre staff to be usually unable to help you except by providing a technical service number and telling you to wait.
Overall, they have a fair to middling product that is decent overall but let down by customer service policies and skill (or lack thereof). Still, with the widest coverage in the nation, TM is likely what you have available anywhere.
Read our full TM Unifi Review for more information!
- Speed up to 1Gbps
- 12-month contract
- Free voice line
"TIME Internet offers the fastest broadband speeds at 1Gbps."
TIME has been around for a while now, but it has never really come to the fore until they dropped the 1Gbps bombshell after MSAP. Today they offer the best speed available for homes. Unfortunately, TIME is not a government-linked company and has no incentive to roll out broadband where it’s not as commercially viable to do it.
This has resulted in TIME fibre being only available in limited high-density population areas such as urban centres and area with many high-rise buildings such as condos. I’ve been on TIME fibre for almost a year now and their speed is simply astounding.
Installation has been great, and my personal experience is that the contractor was both professional and much neater than TM contractors. He used a glue gun to lay the cable neatly in my home towards the desired access point.
So far, I have both had and seen few complaints about TIME broadband. The main gripe about them seems to be the fact that their coverage area is so limited that many people simply can’t sign up.
Read our full TIME Internet Review for more information!
- Speed up to 800Mbps
- Offers Mesh routers
- May bundle with mobile plan
"Maxis is strong in mobile telecommunication but inexperienced in broadband."
The name Maxis in Malaysia is synonymous with expensive mobile telecommunications yet at the same time, services which are both stable and strong. They have done extremely well as a brand but their foray into the fixed line broadband space seems a little unlike them.
Built originally on TM’s infrastructure, Maxis has faced criticism in terms of both product quality as well as support, which is unusual because they have traditionally been a company strong in both. My only guess as to the reason for this is that they remain very focus on their core business and are only marginally tapping into the fixed line broadband market.
In-line with their profile though, they offer customers on their premium fixed line broadband plans Mesh routers. These are routers which can work in tandem to create wider blanket coverage over a larger space.
Read our full Maxis Broadband Review for more information!
Final Thoughts: What Makes Broadband Better?
For many years, broadband has been a touchy subject in Malaysia because of TM’s near monopoly over the sector. The company has been the main broadband service provider for near decades and almost exclusively has the widest infrastructure reach in the country.
The transition to Fibre gave other companies a chance to compete, but they do not have the inclination to serve less commercially viable areas unlike TM, which is a government-linked company. This fact is good for those who stay in rural areas but bad for those who seek better options from competitors.
Today the field has expanded slightly but there are still many limitations. Irrespective of your real choice, it remains that you are more likely than not to have to turn to TM, at least for the next couple of years.
5G may change the playing field somewhat, but until the market matures, your choices remain TM Unifi, Maxis Broadband or TIME Internet. If you have the option, I recommend you go for TIME. If not anything else, you won’t feel the urge to strangle the support staff who answers your call for assistance.
To recap, here is the best broadband in Malaysia