Cambodia’s telecommunications sector has grown significantly in the last few years, with internet usage on the rise and mobile SIM cards outnumbering the population of the country. While the sector has seen consolidation in recent years, bringing down the total number of providers, Kingtel Communications Ltd is the latest entrant into the market and will provide customers with high-speed internet, using a fibre-optic network, and mobile call services, which will follow shortly. The Post’s Sorn Sarath sat down with Un Chanboran, sales and marketing director at Kingtel, to discuss the prospects of the new company, challenges that await the sector and potential growth opportunities.
What are your expectations after entering the telecom market?
We will focus on the quality of our internet services. Recently, although there have been many internet service providers in Cambodia, market feedback shows that the quality of services is still limited. We have entered the market to fill this gap. According to our research, internet speeds in Cambodia are still slow, especially between 6pm to 10pm when people and students are at home surfing the internet, and we want to solve this problem.
What are your views on the current situation of Cambodia’s telecom sector?
Cambodia’s telecom sector has seen a strong increase in providers through the last few years due to political stability, economic favour and an increase in the Cambodian population. Today we have more than 14 million people in the Kingdom and around half of the population use [internet and mobile data]. Now there is smartphone usage and WiFi connectivity, available not only in big cities, but also in rural and remote areas. This trend is a big opportunity for the sector.
The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia last month took back the licences of many of ISP and voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) providers because they were inactive. How does maintaining a licence without operating impact the sector?
We want all licensed companies to invest in order to provide economic potential and growth in the telecom sector. If the companies that have licences start to operate, customers will have more service options because there will be more companies to choose from. I think that perhaps the providers [who lost licences] lacked the capital needed to operate.
What do you think about recent mergers within the sector?
We have had around nine major companies providing mobile voice services in the last few years. But Mfone announced bankruptcy and transferred its customers to Mobitel. Beeline merged with Metfone, and Smart merged with Hello, though those were more like acquisitions. The mergers have yielded both positive and negative results. The positives are that these companies are stronger and provide better services. They also have more capital after merging, enabling them to make strong investments to bring in new technology. The negative is that investors may think that Cambodia’s economy is not good when many companies close down or merge.
What does the ASEAN Economic Community mean to the telecom sector in Cambodia?
ASEAN integration will help people in the region exchange labour, as it is easy for foreigners to come and work in Cambodia. It will push economic growth and communication. Previously, we only worked with Cambodian people, but now we will work across borders as well. So, the need for telecom services will grow, which is a positive for the telecom sector.
What are the challenges for the telecom sector in the Kingdom going forward?
I think it will depend on the government’s policy on pricing in this sector. We want the government to take action on setting prices because now the sector has such strong competition that we see some companies are selling at very low prices to gain market share.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.