$18 million infrastructure project to link Cambodia to Laos through
fibre-optic cable has hit problems due to unseasonal rains and lack of
electrical generators, say officials
Customers use an internet cafe in Phnom Penh in this file photo.
AN $18 million project to install a fibre-optic cable from Laos to Cambodia has been delayed due to rains and technical difficulties, the minister of posts and telecommunications said Monday.
Minister So Khun told the Post heavy rains and a lack of electrical generators had delayed construction of the cable, which was originally set to be completed in April.
"We will try to connect the cable to Laos before the ASEAN ministerial meeting in July so that we can present it during the meeting," he said.
"I think it will contribute a lot to Cambodia's economic growth and national budget because we won't need to hire satellites from other countries."
Cambodia's rural internet capacity is limited by a lack of such high-speed cables.
Most areas outside Phnom Penh are dependent on satellite links.
"We already spend between US$200,000 and $300,000 per year on satellite links," he said.
"Having fibre-optic links would be much cheaper."
Cambodia and Laos signed a memorandum of understanding in January to lay the cable, financed by a soft loan from China, as a part of a larger network that would link to China's southwestern Yunnan province.
Phu Leewood, secretary general of the National ICT Development Authority, said on Monday that the cable would, once completed, expedite the linking of government offices nationwide, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
"The government can save a large amount of money by using internet and email instead of making expensive phone calls," Phu Leewood said.
Two private companies are investing in fibre-optic links throughout Cambodia, and Vietnam's Viettel has laid more than 10,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable so far.
"The ICT sector has big potential for the country's economy compared to other sectors because we have plenty of human resources to meet the demand, but its contribution to the national economy is invisible at the moment," Phu Leewood said.
He said he expected all government offices to be linked via fibre-optic cable by the end of 2011.
So Khun said Japan has recently offered to extend additional support to Cambodia's information and communication technology sector.
"We will hold additional discussions about assistance, and Japan will also send its experts to conduct a feasibility study and develop a broadband master plan," he said.
Less than 20 percent of Cambodians are hooked up to the internet, according to 2008 figures.
Most rural Cambodians only have access to high-speed internet through satellite connections, which are more expensive.