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Excell banks on data future

CAMBODIA’S smallest mobile provider by subscriber numbers is increasingly focusing on internet services over traditional voice calls, its chief executive officer has said.

GT-TELL Company, which operates domestically under the Excell brand, and has previously said it is seeking a strategic investor, sees its CDMA technology as superior for internet use, according to its CEO.

CDMA is an alternative mobile phone technology, which needs a certain type of handset in order to make calls.

The firm is its lone operator among the Kingdom’s mobile service providers.

Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) statistics show that over 99 percent of Cambodia’s mobile subscribers are using rival GSM technology - phones which require SIM cards.

In the Kingdom’s ultra competitive market, Excell claimed just 35,434 mobile active subscriber at the end of June, out of a Cambodian total of 7.3 million, according to MPTC.

A data-driven future
But the company is determined that data can make a difference.

While some 60 percent of the Kingdom’s population used voice technology, Excell’s CEO Bioliddin Salakhiddin uulu, said internet has only started to penetrate the Kingdom.

“If you look at data penetration – internet users – it’s still quite low. Ten percent maybe, or maybe even less than that,” he said.

“But the strong side is the data, so that is where we are concentrating right now. CDMA has an advantage, because of the technology it also helps [us] have a lower operational cost.”

But a key challenge remains. There were fewer handsets available that use CDMA technology than GSM.

“This is one of the problems of all CDMA operators all over the world are facing,” he said.

Excell has begun heavily subsidising the price of handsets, in some areas offering phones for free along with purchasing air time.

“Whoever gets our handsets becomes our subscriber – they cannot switch to another operator,” he said.

Negotiations
Biloliddin Salakhiddin uulu declined to comment directly on whether negotiations on any strategic investments were ongoing.

“We are doing the expansion ourselves right now,” he said. “But keep [in] mind we are open for future developments, but I would not comment on specific details.”

The firm – back by investors from Russia and central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan- last week issued a press release announcing its service was available in Battambang, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampong Cham and Svay Rieng provinces.

Excell has expanded partially through a tower sharing agreement with Hello, and is also in the process of setting up in Kampong Thom, he said.

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