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A new generation of mobile

Industry expert says phone providers are demanding more 3G infrastructure

CAMBODIA’S telecos are set to expand on the use of third-generation (3G) phone technology, spreading coverage from cities to rural areas, according to the in-country managing director of mobile infrastructure firm Alcatel-Lucent.

Jiangho Li told the Post Wednesday that domestic firms are increasingly demanding 3G infrastructure, such as mobile-phone transmitters, in order to compete in the Kingdom’s crowded telecoms market.

“It’s a challenging market. Operators need to adapt,” said the Alcatel-Lucent director. He added that his company supplies over 70 percent of market-leader Mobitel’s infrastructure.

The 3G technology allows larger data bandwidth on mobiles, increasing the ability of users to surf the internet or share videos or pictures.

At least five telecoms players, including Hello, Mobitel and Viettel, provide 3G to varying degrees. But coverage is presently clustered around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Jiangho Li said he thinks 3G will eventually be used to spread internet access to rural areas in the absence of land lines.

“Cambodia is not like other countries. There’s not very much fixed-line penetration, so that’s why everyone will use 3G,” he said. “There’s 40,000 to 50,000 fixed lines compared to around 5 million mobile users in Cambodia.”

Leading telcos are clearly embracing what are known as “value-added” services, such as internet provision via phone.

At an event held at Phnom Penh’s Raffles Hotel Le Royal on Thursday, operator Hello launched packages promoting data technology.
However, Marketing Manager Gary Foo said Monday it was important to remain focused on the business of attracting customers.

“While technology and innovation plays a very important role, we believe what’s more important is how we use it to make life more convenient for our customers and ensuring [technology] is relevant to their needs,” he said in an email.

Smart Mobile added that although it is investigating 3G’s potential, there are other forms of technology able to provide a similar level of data access.

“Data internet is not widely used yet on the Cambodian market. As this picks up, we have alternatives,” said Smart Mobile CEO Thomas Hundt. He highlighted similar technologies such as WiMax internet access.

But the cost for 3G equipment is rapidly dropping, and in many countries increased demand is leading providers to no longer install 2G equipment at all, according to Alcatel-Lucents’s Jinghou Li.

“Customers are asking for 3G,” he said.

In 2006, Prime Minister Hun Sen briefly banned 3G, alluding to the potential for using the technology for sending pornographic video content.
“I say wait another 10 years until we strengthen social morality,” he said in a radio address at the time.

Metfone, the Kingdom’s second largest provider by subscriber numbers, had previously planned to install 1,500 3G stations during the first quarter of the year.

Owned by Vietnam-based Viettel, Metfone managing director Nguyen Duy Tho previously announced plans to extend 3G coverage to every district in the Kingdom.

Metfone did not return request for comment on Monday.

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