City&Country: PCOM brings fibre optics to real estate

Before the 19th century, a house with running water was quite unheard-of. And it was not until the 1910s that telephones started appearing in homes on a large scale in certain parts of the world. Next came hot water and air-conditioning. Each new addition helped elevate property values.

The last two decades have seen the emergence of green homes and home security. Today, an increasingly popular concept is the smart home, generally defined as a house that is wired to enable occupants to remotely control an array of automated electronic devices, giving its occupants an automated living experience.

K C Lim, CEO of the PCOM group of companies, believes that home infotainment and home security are two particularly appealing areas under the smart home concept.

Established in 1999, PCOM specialises in the sale and marketing of fibre optics as well as the provision of device connectivity solutions for homes and businesses.

People are so reliant on technology, from online banking to movie streaming, that high- speed data connection has become the norm, says Lim.

Fibre to the home (FTTH), which involves fibre-optic cables, is slowly but surely replacing the standard copper wire or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line broadband used by many providers in Malaysia. FTTH can deliver video, Internet and voice services through greater high-speed broadband connection with high definition.

With FTTH, a home can receive a high-speed, high-definition (HSHD) connection, which provides speed and connectivity without compromising picture and sound quality, and offers great flexibility and high performance, says Lim.

To prove his point, Lim uses his laptop to stream a high-definition clip of a fashion show direct to a wide-screen television via the Internet.

Not only was the image crystal clear, the 10-minute clip was downloaded within a few seconds with none of the annoying lag time many are used to.

Streaming content to your television is just one of the many things you can do, says Lim.

There are many possibilities with FTTH, from streaming music via the computer and relaying it to a sound system via a music server to being able to connect your cable channel to every room in the house without compromising on quality.

Service providers such as Telekom Malaysia and Astro have already launched “triple-play” services — Unifi and Astro B.yond IPTV — in the past year. The service is a bundle of IPTV, broadband Internet access and Voice-over-Internet Protocol, made possible through FTTH.

“Most households only need a maximum of 100Mbps to cater for the digital lifestyle,” says Lim.
PCOM started out as a one-man operation with Lim handling everything from administrative work to delivering orders. The company has always been more business-to-business, offering connectivity products and solutions such as digital signage, high-definition distribution and software.

“Seeing the potential in the retail market, we have started offering HSHD solutions direct to consumers and developers this year,” says Lim.

PCOM has completed a good number of projects, mostly for purpose-built homes, and believes that developers stand to gain from getting their development FTTH and HSHD ready.

According to FTTH Council Asia-Pacific, real-estate projects with FTTH infrastructure showed a price increase of between US$4,000 (RM12,000) and US$14,000 while in Australia, developers that ignored FTTH found themselves selling their properties at discounted prices of at least A$5,000 (RM16,000).

“That’s not all. FTTH Council also found that in Taiwan, HSHD-ready properties can appreciate by 3% to 8%,” says Lim.

South Korea has taken things one step further by grading developments based on bandwidth speed. Called the Emblem concept, it is championed by the South Korean government and awards four different grades for speeds of 10Mbps to 1Gbps.

FTTH Council was founded in 2001 and its members comprise telecommunications, network computing and system integration companies, as well as content-provider businesses, real-estate developers and municipalities, among others.

PCOM is currently working with a few developers, and the projects are still in the design stage.
While Lim declines to name the developers, he says that “[they] believe a HSHD-ready infrastructure can add value to their properties and sell better. So far, the response from developers has been positive.”

PCOM’s HSHD-Ready Home solution connects homes to the fibre-optic backbone laid out by an Internet service provider via FTTH.

“It is a combination of two connectivity solutions — FTTH and 7.1 HD Distribution. The latter takes broadband data and distributes it around your home without any loss in connection and quality. The system also links other media systems to form one integrated system that you can control anywhere,” says Lim.

Service cost depends on the customer’s specification; Lim puts the cost at between RM2,000 and RM100,000 per home.

“Some people may only want to have their Playstation integrated and some might want us to not only get the house HSHD-ready but also to buy the electronic products for them such as the television set or the home theatre system.”

Looking ahead
Lim believes that there is a growing demand for FTTH and HSHD homes and solutions in Malaysia.
“Malaysians are more in tune with the latest technologies and have the means to buy and install them,” he says.

The benefits are not restricted to homeowners and developers but also to telcos and the government.

Telcos will benefit from the reduced hassle of post-construction in-house cabling, an increased take-up of services in new developments and the opportunity to plan and market their offerings earlier.

“It will also help the government to accelerate the National Broadband Plan (NBP) by ensuring the availability of infrastructure which will help to attract foreign businesses to the country,” says Lim.
He adds that it will also create a nurturing ground for locally developed technologies.

NBP was launched in 2004 by the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and fosters universal access and service to broadband Internet.

PCOM is targeting developments in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Baru as it sees these highly urbanised areas and their sophisticated and affluent population embracing technology in their daily lives.

“The digital lifestyle will grow, so it makes sense for homeowners and developers to invest in a HSHD-ready infrastructure as a way to future-proof their properties,” concludes Lim.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 862, June 13-19, 2011

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