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An employee sorts out mobile phone SIM cards last year at a shop in central Phnom Penh.
An employee sorts out mobile phone SIM cards last year at a shop in central Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Smart gains on Metfone

Cambodian mobile operator Smart Axiata is closing in on market leader Metfone, with the latest subscriber figures showing the gap between the two telecom giants narrowing, while Royal Group-owned Cellcard remains a distant third, according to data obtained by the Post yesterday.

Im Vutha, spokesman of the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), said based on reports submitted by the country’s mobile operators, Cambodia had 19.1 million active subscribers as of the end of June. The figures show Vietnamese-owned Metfone on top with 8.9 million subscribers, while Smart claimed 7.4 million subscribers and Cellcard reported 2.4 million. Another 400,000 subscribers are split between three other mobile operators, namely qb, Seatel and Xinwei.

Vutha said while Metfone, which once boasted having over 10 million subscribers, still had the edge in traditional voice calls, Smart had blazed ahead in the more lucrative data segment, having become the Kingdom’s most popular operator for smartphone users.

“Based on the figures, [Metfone] was number one in terms of voice calls, however, Smart has got the greatest number of data users,” he said.

Chari Thandalam Veeravalli Thirumala, group chief financial officer of Malaysia-based Axiata, the parent company of Smart Axiata, said last week that the company’s own research shows Smart had more than 3 million data subscribers in 2015, compared to Metfone’s estimated 1.6 million and Cellcard’s 600,000.

He said Smart’s 22 percent revenue growth over the past year was “largely driven by data revenue”, as the region’s telecom companies increasingly offer voice calls and SMS for free or bundled into data packages amid falling usage.

According to Thirumala, Smart now accounts for 57 percent of mobile data by revenue in Cambodia, nearly double that of Metfone and about five times that of Cellcard.

The total number of mobile subscribers in Cambodia fell by about 2 million last year as consumers with multiple SIM cards dropped their lesser-used accounts, and recent operator consolidations – including Metfone’s acquisition of Beeline last year – resulted in thousands of cancelled lines.

Chhim Sang Heng, owner of Hak Se Phone shop in Phnom Penh, said Smart accounts for the majority of his shop’s SIM card sales, while he rarely sells new Metfone lines anymore.

“Smart is now popular in the market for both voice and data use, and most of my customers use Smart SIMs because the company has a lot of promotions,” he said. “Cellcard is popular with businessmen, who use their line to communicate with work.”

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