Surge in internet complaints

News March 9, 2021

Telcos attempting to address problems due to increase in traffic as more people work from home

The article “Surge in internet complaints” was published by Hakem Hassan at The Sun Daily

PETALING JAYA: An increase in internet usage stemming from the need for people to work from home has led to more complaints about unreliable connectivity, low speed and poor customer service.

However, according to at least one telco, steps are already in place to improve connectivity, and this seems to have yielded some commendable results.

The Consumers Association of Penang told theSun that it has not received any complaints about internet connectivity since the second movement control order was put in place on Jan 12.

According to data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia, 40% of Malaysian workers have been forced to relocate their workplaces from offices to homes, leading to a sharp increase in internet usage.

Celcom Axiata Bhd (Celcom), one of Malaysia’s major telecommunications companies, reported a more than 50% increase in data traffic – from 287 million gigabytes in the last quarter of 2019 to 431 million gigabytes in the corresponding period last year.

Data usage per month rose by 40%, from 14.6 gigabytes in 2019 to 20.8 gigabytes in 2020.

According to the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca), the higher internet usage resulted in users getting poorer service.

Fomca chief executive officer Saravanan Thambirajah said users are getting only 20% to 30% of the internet speed they have paid for.

He said they have also complained that when they encounter problems, attempts to reach customer service personnel often led to frustration.

Saravanan cited a National Consumer Complaints Centre report that showed that there were 5,247 complaints about internet services in 2019. “I expect the number of complaints in 2020 to be even higher because of the higher usage brought about by the pandemic.”

Apart from poor connectivity, he said, complaints that he had come across were about billing, misleading information, insufficient coverage and termination issues.

To address such issues, Celcom chief executive officer Idham Nawawi said the company had committed about RM1 billion in capital expenditure to increase network capacity, reduce congestion and improve 4G coverage nationwide.

“As more consumers are digitally engaged in business, working from home, education and entertainment, we are working tirelessly to raise the quality of our 4G network coverage.”

Fong Choong-Fook, chief executive officer of consulting firm LGMS Group, pointed out that consumers need to understand that huge investments in infrastructure are essential to increase coverage.

“The consumption of internet data is logically higher now than ever, as people are depending on the internet to do their work.

“Telcos as well as internet service providers should prioritise looking at people’s needs but this must be weighed against commercial interests.”

While the work-from-home concept seems to have been firmly entrenched, Malaysians may, in the end, go with a hybrid work model – work from home on some days and report to office on others.

This is the model favoured by 58.3% of Malaysian business leaders who responded to a regional survey conducted in September last year by Poly, a multinational firm that develops enterprise-grade communications hardware and software.

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