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Wild Wild Web
Critical mass or mess?
Mergers and requisitions
Compete or be obsolete
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Of mergers and requisitions

Malaysia currently has two ISPs--TMnet and Jaring--which are run by Telekom Malaysia and Mimos Bhd, respectively.

The two ISPs together provide services currently to over 550,000 Internet subscribers, with an estimated three times that number of actual users. The figures are expected to rise significantly over the next few years.

The new ISPs should be good news to Malaysian Internet users who have been, in the past, subject to frequent poor service such as email server outages and dial-up server overloads.

However, the Government's recent move to consolidate the telecommunications industry into just two or three major players could have an impact on the eventual number of new ISPs.

Even in the event that the Government makes a sudden about face on merging the telcos, it would be difficult to envisage more ISPs coming onto the scene other than Maxis. The reason for this is that several of the new licensees are known to be under financial stress, which brought on the consolidation move in the first place. Achieving a critical mass of Internet buyers is also seen as one of the toughest hurdles that has to be overcome.

"Many Malaysians still prefer face-to-face contact,"' said Compaq Computer Corporation Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Cheam Tat Inn.

Compaq Malaysia has a Web site that allows customers to browse for its personal computers. They can then get in touch with a sales representative, via telephone or email, who would advise customers on the nearest "demo kiosk" where they can get a first-hand look at the product.

Malaysians' preference to kick the tyres before buying may also be the main obstacle in the way of a local e-commerce success story, which many say is sorely needed to really inspire the industry.


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