Malaysia criticizes cellphone operators


Malaysia stepped up pressure Thursday on mobile operators to invest more on improving service and extending coverage to rural areas of the country.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Leo Moggie chastised mobile operators for their services, but stopped short of setting a deadline or threatening fines if they aren’t improved.

“I am not so happy with the quality of service,” Moggie told reporters Thursday.

His comments highlight growing consumer dissatisfaction with the country’s crowded mobile industry and a more active role by the government to push through improvements.

Responding to consumer complaints at growing network congestion and other mobile network shortfalls, the Communications and Multimedia Commission recently subjected the five mobile networks to a battery of technical tests.

Moggie’s comments Thursday suggest some operators will fare badly in the survey when results are published at the end of the month.

Moggie said more and quicker infrastructure spending is needed to satisfy consumers.

The commission’s survey was designed to spur operators to improve, he said, but ultimately, consumers will be the driving force behind more spending on networks.

“We can warn (mobile companies), but at the end of the day it is consumer choice that would determine quality of service,” Moggie said. “Market pressure will be an effective means.”

Malaysia’s five mobile phone operators for the relatively small population of 22 million gives the country one of the highest provider-customer ratios in the world.

The government’s message on poor service appears to be getting through.

In announcing a threefold increase in mobile infrastructure investment Tuesday, Telekom Malaysia Bhd. chief executive Md. Khir Abdul Rahman said: “We believe the only way to win market share is through network improvement.”