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Construction on submarine cable yet to begin

Web surfers and social-media addicts will have to hold out longer in the wait for Cambodia to boost its internet speeds, as construction on the Kingdom’s first submarine internet cable is behind schedule.

Paul Blanche-Horgan, CEO of Ezecom, Cambodia’s largest internet provider, confirmed yesterday that the $80 million project would more likely be operational by the first quarter of 2015 rather than by the end of this year, a timeline first announced in June.

While construction was slated to commence in October 2013, Blanche-Horgan said it is now more likely to start five months later, in March, after the successful tender is announced for the construction and laying of the cable.

The 1,425-kilometre cable will run between landing stations in Preah Sihanouk province and Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang in Malaysia, where it will link into the Asia-America Gateway (AAG), a 20,000-kilometre cable linking Southeast Asia to the United States.

The AAG currently connects Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii to the west coast of the United States.

Once the cable is up and running, Cambodia’s internet speeds could increase four-fold, from 512 kilobits per second to two megabits per second.

“We are still hoping for it to be operational this year, but it may be more like the first quarter of 2015. Either way, it will certainly be operational by the AEC [Asean Economic Community] 2015 integration,” Blanche-Horgan said, referring to the deadline for countries in the region to adopt policies creating a freer flow of goods and labour across borders.

He added that the increased connectivity will be available nationwide once the cable is plugged into Cambodia’s existing fibre-optic network.

“Construction of the Sihanouk landing station is also planned to commence in March,” he said. “Once complete, it will be great to see the cable pulled to shore and it will be a special time for all Cambodians.”

The Ezecom CEO said the company had just completed a desktop study identifying the best route for the cable to be laid beneath the Gulf of Thailand, and applications for tender will go out later this month.

“The project is on track for completion by the launch of the AEC 2015 integration, and under the budgeted amount,” he said.

Members of the industry predict the cable’s addition to the network will be a hit with consumers.

Ken Chanthan, chairman and CEO of Ken Group and chairman of the Cambodia ICT Alliance, said upgrading the country’s internet access and subsequently boosting connectivity to the rest of the world will foster a more competitive market, potentially driving down prices.

“Connecting to the AAG puts Cambodia in line with its regional neighbours such as Thailand and South Korea with regards to communications infrastructure. Faster internet speeds will equate to more internet users and increased online trade,” he said.

The number of internet users in Cambodia is increasing at a rate of five per cent, according to the World Bank’s latest country statistics. The most recent figures from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications indicates that 17.5 per cent of Cambodians, or 2.5 million out of a population of some 15 million, are connected.

“With Asean integration set for 2015, Cambodia will see an increase in ISPs and as a result of heightened competition, there will be lower prices for consumers,” Chanthan said.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications could not be reached for comment.

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