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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Only MPTC can licence airwave use, official says

Only MPTC can licence airwave use, official says

THE Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) is now the only body that can issue frequency licences to businesses, its director general said Thursday when quizzed on a series of sector controversies.

The telecoms industry came under scrutiny last month when leading Internet service providers (ISPs) wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen to raise concerns about the ministry’s reissuance of nine existing licences to a company called Digital Star TV.

A permit gives businesses permission to use the radio spectrum to provide technology, such as mobile-phone services or wireless Internet, to customers.

Experts have said that multiple companies using the same frequency bandwidth make technology, like WiMax wireless Internet, impossible to use.

In an interview with the Post Thursday, ministry Director General Mao Chakrya spoke in detail about the row for the first time.

When asked why Star Digital TV was granted a licence already given to nine ISPs he said: “Any other country could have the same problem. This is because the MPTC issues licences, but it is not the only ministry involved.”

The Ministry of Information was at the centre of another licensing debate last year when it awarded Phom Penh Cable Television a monopoly to provide Internet protocol television to the Kingdom. This came despite the MPTC’s already having given a licence to offer the same services to Kazakh firm Digi.

“It involved some other [ministries],” Mao Chakrya said Thursday in reference to the latest incident.

He declined to comment further, pointing instead to a new ruling on licensing detailed in a letter signed by the Council of Ministers on February 2 and handed to mobile-phone providers Monday.

“Right now, the prime minister has instructed that the MPTC, and only the MPTC, should now issue licences,” he said.

The letter states that: “To ensure unity in giving permission to investment projects, there must be approval from the government in response to requests made by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Then the ministry can issue licences to the company.”

Mao Chakrya added that he believes the ISPs who wrote to Hun Sen should have discussed the issues with the MPTC first. The companies named in that letter are Angkor Data Communication Group, Cambodia Data Communication Co Ltd, Chuan Wei, Wicam, Wireless IP, AZ Communication Group and EZECOM.

MPTC cancels licences
MPTC informed two of these firms in a letter at the end of last month that their licences had been revoked, a decision the document said had been made in September, according to an unnamed industry executive. It remains unclear which two companies were involved.

“I think it would have been appropriate for all those companies to have worked with the ministry on behalf of the government, as we are responsible for the sector. They should have discussed [the issue] and written a letter to the ministry and so on,” Mao Chakrya said Thursday.

He added that he was happy to meet with all the ISPs involved but said some companies were not joining MPTC meetings.

He said another meeting, held once every two months, would solve this problem. The next session is due to take place in March, but the date has not yet been fixed, he added.

When the Post approached a spokesman for the group that wrote the letter to the prime minister Thursday, he referred back to the document sent to Hun Sen – which stated that the companies “wished to lodge concerns about the manner in which the MPTC is attributing new operators radio-frequency spectrum that is already under licence”.

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