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A person uses a phone to browse the internet last year in Phnom Penh
A person uses a phone to browse the internet last year in Phnom Penh. Telecommunication companies in the Kingdom are pushing towards providing 4G services with one company already providing a 4G LTE network in every province. Vireak Mai

Telecoms rush to provide 4G

Cambodian telecom companies are scrambling to jump on the 4G bandwagon and tap into the Kingdom’s growing mobile internet usage, as front-runner Smart announced last week that its 4G LTE network now spans across the whole country.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart, which is the only provider of 4G LTE services, said the decision to expand its network was consumer-driven, as even smaller provinces wanted access to high-speed mobile internet.

He added that while currently more than 100,000 of Smart’s 7.5 million subscribers were using 4G LTE, the investment was necessary going into the future. 4G services, in addition to voice and 3G services, provides mobile broadband internet, whereas 4G LTE is a wireless standard for high-speed access.

“Certainly the investments are substantial and won’t pay off within a couple of months. But 4G LTE is the technology of the future and we see consumer demand, so we are ready to invest,” Hundt said.

He said subscribers wanted high-speed internet on their phones and that falling prices of 4G-enabled, entry-level phones would increase the number of users.

“While the price tag for 4G LTE phones becomes more favourable, currently $160 to $170 in the entry level [segment], more and more customers will be able to enjoy the fastest mobile internet of Cambodia,” Hundt added.

The growth in 4G also comes with increased pressure on frequency requirements, Hundt said, and that further spectrum will have to be made available by the Ministry of Telecommunications.

“One of the initiatives, for example, is to achieve a higher grade of spectrum utilisation, ie licensees currently holding spectrum but not operating are supposed to give up the unused spectrum so that such spectrum blocks can be re-assigned to operators able to utilise for commercial operation,” he added.

While the big three telecoms in Cambodia – Smart, Metfone and Cellcard – all have 2G and 3G services, new entrant and Singapore-based South East Asia Telecom or Seatel has decided to directly provide 4G LTE services. The company has been in Cambodia for a year and will launch its services in the next few months.

“We are going 100 per cent 4G. This is our marketing strategy,” said Wei Xiang, publicity and planning executive at Seatel.

Xiang added that 4G was expected to change the Cambodian telecom market and by providing a high-end service, a new entrant like Seatel can compete with already-established businesses.

“First we can [use 4G to] take over the market share and then later on we can expand our package [of services],” he added.

“Everything is possible for a newcomer. Once you have the right products. You can take it over and be number 1 or number 2,” Xiang said.

According to the Digital, Social and Mobile in APAC 2015 report published in March by Singaporean consultancy firm We Are Social, the number of active users accessing social media via the mobile phones last year increased 108 per cent in Cambodia.

Anthony Galliano, CEO of local social media marketing firm Dynamo Digital, said adding 4G to a telecom’s service portfolio is necessary to tap into Cambodia’s high usage of social and multimedia content on mobile phones.

“Any telco that wants to remain in the game will need to offer 4G services and should be looking ahead to launch 5G. Their customers are on the move and mobile,” Galliano said.

“Consumers now have a mobile lifestyle which includes work and play, and their internet habits are demanding much higher internet speeds to surf the web, stream video, upload photos and videos.”

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