Minders of an invisible network

Published Date: 25/08/2014

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THE YEAR 2008 will be remembered for many things, among them financial turmoil and political upheaval for many countries, but for millions of Internet users, the thing that will be remembered is the slowdown and loss of connectivity due to damage to the international communications cables Flag and Seamewe 4 on Jan 30.

According to Eric Schoonover, a senior research analyst for New York-based telecommunications market research and consulting firm TeleGeography, the two undersea cables in the Mediterranean accounted up to 75% of the Internet capacity connecting Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries to Europe.

Alternatives routes were sought, including by satellite, to end the disruptions.

Even on a good day, users want to have better Internet connectivity, taking into consideration pricing, accessibility and speed. Locally, Noor Mohd Helmi Nong Hadzmi, CEO of IX Telecom Sdn Bhd, founded his company to do just that.

“As more companies go global, the telecommunication landscape becomes more complex and messy. We make it easier and more flexible for companies to ensure they have connectivity wherever they are based on their requirements,” he told MetroBiz.

The telecommunication company offering virtual network operator (VNO) services is also a network service provider (NSP) and application service provider (ASP) licensed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Some of the services they offer include providing fast, reliable and highly secure private networks for communications between multiple locations worldwide, running through conduits built around fibre optic or copper cables, and satellites.

“Such services are used by multinational corporations and have different bandwidth speeds, with some services backed by best-in-class Service Level Agreements (SLAs),” Noor Mohd Helmi said.

Being an ASP and NSP licence holder and using the VNO business model is not too capital intensive for a startup.

Full fledged telecommunications companies that hold the Network Facility Provider (NFP) licence, on the other hand, have to build physical network infrastructure, including telecommunication towers and satellite hubs which is beyond the means for a startup.

“As a VNO, we own very little network infrastructure while being able to provide managed services,” he said.

The company purchases “Internet protocol transit” or what most of us refer to as “bandwidth” from other larger telco providers, such as Telekom Malaysia, which have infrastructure and then resell the network services to their clients.

“We then provide value added network services such as design, provision, operation and maintenance for customers,” he said.

This is a boon to smaller enterprises, are then able to get a better package based on their needs.

Larger corporations also benefit from IX Telecom’s services as this allows them to lease network equipment instead of owning it, something that can be useful in a world of shrinking profits and cost pressures.

Instead of having to expend large amounts of capital for the procurement of equipment that will depreciate, companies prefer to free up the precious capital for more productive use. For these companies the operational expediture incurred in leasing network bandwith and equipment is preferable to capital expenditure to acquire and own the same.

“We provide and manage the network equipment such as routers, firewalls, switches, wireless equipment and much more, allowing clients to focus on their strategic projects and initiatives,” he said.

IX Telecom manages all this from their round-the-clock Network Operation Centre (NOC) in their Cyberjaya office. The centre has the capability of monitoring connectivity and equipment performance globally regardless of location and time.

With global customers in various industries including telcos, airlines, financial services, government, and oil and gas, he said they provide services in other countries via their own team and also with global partners.

He added that some of the services provided to clients involve services that are beyond what is avaible from conventional telcos.

“We are very good at establishing connections for clients in areas, including those dubbed as ‘difficult countries’,” he said.

With a team of overseas partners, the company is able to establish connectivity in countries plagued by civil war and political unrest or those that simply lack physical telecommunications infrastructure, Noor Mohd Helmi said.

He said he was exposed to entrepreneurship while reading a degree in telecommunication engineering in a local university, and as a result, started aspiring to run his own telecommunication company even back then.

“We were encouraged to set up dot.com businesses. We did web hosting and web design in those days,” he said.

It was also a time when everyone was talking about information technology, with the nation embarking on creating a knowledge-based society with the launch of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) on February 12, 1996, the JPA scholar added.

After gaining work experience in technology startups and a budget airline as a network systems engineer, he said the time became right in 2008 to set up the company with his room mate during his university days, Mohd Amzari Tajudeen who is now the company’s deputy CEO.

They started the company in a virtual office in KLCC because the prestigious office address served as branding. The location also served as a conducive place to meet with clients, while most of the work was done in their own homes.

The company achieved revenue of RM13mil last year and now occupies a 5,000 sq ft office in Cyberjaya with 40 employees. It now has offices in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the US.

 

THE STAR