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A security guard patrols the perimeter of a Smart construction site in Phnom Penh late last year
A security guard patrols the perimeter of a Smart construction site in Phnom Penh late last year. Pha Lina

Regulator wants licences

In the latest move to assert control over Cambodia’s saturated telecommunications industry and maintain tighter oversight, the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) last week called for all industry providers to give proof of operations in a bid to snuff out inactive firms and reclaim wasted licences.

In a statement released on January 16, the TRC appeals to internet service, mobile service, optic cable, fixed line and wireless service licensees and all other firms, not currently providing services but still holding a licence to step forward and update the regulator on their current operations by February 28.

The letter warns that if no response was received by the deadline, licences would be automatically revoked.

According to the TRC, the appeal was made to differentiate those who are providing “real practice” and those who are not.

“The TRC will withdraw the licence of companies that have a licence but are not operating and do not complete the form with updated information on time,” the statement says.

The TRC declined to comment on the current number of inactive licence holders.

Sok Channda, chief executive officer of MekongNet (Angkor Data Communication), welcomed the TRC’s letter, claiming that many companies apply for a licence and launch operations only to close soon after.

“It is good and necessary to have an accurate figure, which reflects the actual situation in the telecommunications industry,” she said, adding that the initiative will not have any negative effect on her company or others if they are really operating legitimate services.

The January 16 census of telco licences comes less than a month after the Council of Ministers overruled the TRC’s contentious bid to apply minimum call rates to Cambodia’s mobile service providers.

The December 20 ruling finally nullified minimum call charges of 4.5 cents per minute inside a network and 5.95 cents between different networks after several TRC attempts to enforce the regulation were met with fierce industry and consumer backlash.

The nullification came with a clause, however, demanding all mobile phone providers submit operating cost calculations every six months from January to justify offering reduced call rates, so that “the regulator can monitor levels of fair competition”.

CEO of Smart Mobile Thomas Hundt expressed relief yesterday about the decision to scrap the minimum call pricing, but he did not comment on the government’s demands for half-yearly operating cost statements.

“Now, after the Council of Ministers decision and for the sake of the industry’s viability, further consolidation of the telco market is needed from here on in,” he said.

“From Smart’s perspective, we do not see more than three or four players remaining sustainable by the end of 2014.”

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