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Telcos still vie for subscribers

The battle for subscriber numbers rages on in the still-clustered Cambodian mobile market.

Smart Mobile this week announced it passed the 3 million-subscriber mark, which would make it Cambodia’s second-largest operator by subscriber numbers after Vietnam’s Metfone.

Numbers obtained by the Post showed Cellcard with a consecutive 2.9 million users through 2011.

National user numbers, which surpassed the country’s population late last year, are more a count of connections rather than of actual subscribers, and subject to quick user turnover, analysts said.

Smart’s new numbers show a more than 1 million-user jump since January.

Hello Axiata
recently reported 15 per cent quarter-on-quarter subscriber growth in the first quarter of 2012, the company said.

The operator had 1.67 million users in November, according to numbers obtained by the Post. Revenues at Hello were 2 per cent lower following strong fourth-quarter growth.

Quick growth in markets such as Cambodia are subject to high user turnover, or churn, said Shiv Putcha, emerging markets principal analyst at London-based research firm Ovum.

“In emerging markets, we see users switching operators frequently,” he said, noting that the standards for what constitutes an active user are often unclear. “In the long run, subscriber numbers are not the best sign of performance.”

Smart chief executive Thomas Hundt yesterday said the operator’s standard for counting users was the “most conservative international measure”, including only mobile accounts that have been active for three months or less.

The seemingly high mobile penetration rate in Cambodia could also be accounted for by the increasing popularity of mobile devices that use more than one SIM card, Shiv Putcha noted.

While these connections still generate revenues for operators, they are not necessarily the subscriber’s sole connection, he said.

Information on Metfone and Cellcard subscribers was not available yesterday, and representatives at the companies could not be reached.

Metfone had 7.35 million subscribers in November, according to data obtained by the Post, although insiders have called the figures inflated.

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at



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