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Smart to launch 3G service next month

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A vendor passes by a Smart Mobile umbrella on Sihanouk boulevard in Phnom Penh yesterday. The firm plans a 3G roll-out in May and WiMAX this month. Photo by: WILL BAXTER

SMART Mobile plans to launch 3G service next month, while its merger with Star-Cell has largely wrapped up, according to Chief Executive Officer Thomas Hundt.

“We are developing nicely, with momentum from the merger,” he said, adding its 3G in particular was “an extremely nice add-on.”

The firm aims to operate the 3G service in all 24 provinces by year’s end, though it will initially be available in major centres such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang after its May launch, he said.

Calling it a “substantial deployment,” Hundt declined to reveal the number of towers or speeds, citing competition concerns, but described it as “from our perspective the fastest one in Cambodia.”

Smart Mobile has also largely completed its integration with Star-Cell, following a merger that was announced in December 2010, said Hundt.

Holders of Star-Cell SIMs can top up via Smart scratch cards, and Star-Cell scratch cards are being phased out. Branding is also being changed over to Smart Mobile.

The merged firm is 75-percent controlled by Smart’s owners, Cyprus-based Timeturns Holdings, and the remaining  25 percent is owned by Star-Cell’s parent TeliaSonera AB.

Smart also plans to roll out a WiMAX network by the end of April. WiMAX is a “last mile” method of internet access where connections are established wirelessly at long range.

Its frequencies are not in the range of those affected in the overlapping frequency dispute that has publicly frustrated some providers, Hundt said. Last year, several companies said their licenses in the 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz range were given to another company, Digital Star Media. That firm rejected the claim last week, saying it was the first to receive the licence for the frequency range.

Additionally, Thomas Hundt said Smart’s WiMAX roll-out gained an advantage by having much of the necessary infrastructure already in place from its mobile operations.

“Therefore we can deploy the WiMAX network at extremely favourable costs at the end,” he said.

“We have the towers, we have the fiber optic, we have the entire infrastructure, so the WiMAX is in this respect just another kind of last-mile exit.”

This would mean the network would cost less than a purely WiMAX operator, with savings passed on to the marketplace, he said.

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