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Mobile minnow looks ahead

MOBILE operator qb has begun its planned expansion to cover Cambodia’s entire population by the end of the year, according to CEO Alan Sinfield.

Service provided by qb, one of Cambodia’s smaller operators by subscribers, was now limited to Phnom Penh and six or seven other metropolitan areas, he told the Post.

“It’s going to be hard to achieve [100 percent population coverage], but certainly that’s our main goal,” he said, though he declined to disclose the cost of the expansion or the number of towers to be added.

He did say it would involve a “substantial build”.

Although many experts say the Kingdom’s mobile sector is overcrowded, with nine active providers, Sinfield said the ongoing plans were inspired by enthusiasm from parent firm Cambodian Advance Communications.

“Our investors view Cambodia as a developing country very positively, seeing great potential, and are keen to be a part of this,” he said. He declined to reveal investors’ identities.

Sinfield said that after he took the helm in March the firm began a two- or three-month period of assessment of the Cambodian market.

“We know our niche, and we are focusing on it. Basically, we’re looking to deliver quality of network, and availability, to customers.”

Tariffs charged by qb would be competitive, but not the cheapest in Cambodia, as the firm intends to focus on value, he said.

It presently operates a 3.5G Ericsson network, which allows users to quickly surf the internet or share videos. The firm also provides high-speed internet through computers via USB modem, allowing access to its 3rd Generation user network.

However, Sinfield acknowledged that the firm was exploring the use of other technologies besides 3G to meet its target of 100 percent coverage of the Kingdom’s population.

“The issue is 3G is expensive technology, so for us to cover the same geographical space it’s almost two times as expensive with 3G [as with 2G].”

3G coverage would remain available primarily in urban areas and major roadways, with less-expensive technology extended to rural areas, Sinfield said.

The firm was also looking to innovate with green technology to power its new towers, he said.

It would prioritise electricity from the national grid and generators, but would also make use of solar panels, he said.

Sinfield said his company first provided coverage in 2008, and was one of Cambodia’s smaller providers by active subscriber numbers, but he disputed Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications figures depicting it as the smallest GSM provider.

“It depends on how you count active subscribers. The standard is commonly someone who has made calls in the last 90 days,” he said.

Value-added services also play a large part in qb’s strategy, and Sinfield highlighted user-generated content as an area of interest.

“Value-added service penetration is very low in Cambodia. However, we see this differentiation by qb as an area we can provide opportunities,” he said.

“From a marketing standpoint we do lots of studies, including of international trends. We also do a lot of mystery shopping. Also, plenty of studies of international trends.”

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