Telekom Brunei Berhad (TelBru) has reportedly submitted a petition to Brunei’s Supreme Court to wind up its cellular subsidiary B-Mobile Communications, with a hearing scheduled for 28 February to discuss the matter. According to the Brunei Times the development comes just five days after the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) said it was ‘looking into the public mobile telecommunications service outages and degradation affecting B-Mobile subscribers’. The regulator said it was taking steps to ensure that B-Mobile ‘resolves the situation and restores the provision of telecommunications service to normal levels in favour of the subscribers and public at the earliest possible time’. For its part, the cellco acknowledged that it was experiencing technical problems that primarily affected its network and services.
While no reason has been publicly stated for TelBru’s drastic legal move, the speed of the developments suggests that the company’s troubles are far worse than initially feared. A notice published in local newspapers stated: ‘[Any] creditor or contributory of the said company desirous to support or oppose the making of an order on the said Petition may appear at the time of hearing by himself or his counsel for that purpose’. Under Chapter 39 of Brunei law, if TelBru’s petition is successful the court will appoint a provisional liquidator, before giving a winding-up order to the Official Receiver.
Formed in February 2005, in order to secure the AITI’s second mobile concession, B-Mobile is a joint venture between fixed line incumbent TelBru and local conglomerate QAF Comserve. As part of the licensing conditions B-Mobile was granted an immediate 3G licence, and went on to become Brunei’s first 3G service provider, introducing W-CDMA technology in September 2005. However, despite this advantage the company has struggled to compete effectively with DST Communications, the country’s first active wireless operator. DST inaugurated its GSM network in 1996 and enjoyed almost a decade unencumbered by competition.