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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tower firm aims to clear-up skyline

Tower firm aims to clear-up skyline

A private company is on the verge of acquiring mobile phone towers in order to lease them to domestic telecos, in a move that could reduce the huge numbers of “unsightly” masts crowding the capital's skyline.

United States-majority owned Tower Master (Cambodia) Company will acquire its first set of towers from unnamed providers in the next few weeks, its Executive Vice President Anthony Ortolani has said.

The firm has been licensed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to build and operate shared communications towers in Cambodia.

Under the terms of its permit, once TMCC has constructed a tower in a specific area, no operator may build within 15 kilometres of the site.

Instead, service providers must rent space on the TMCC tower, according to Ortolani.

“When you have nine operators deploying nine independent sets of infrastructure, generally grouped rather tightly or within a kilometre of one another, you create miniature tower farms,” he said.

“They’re unsightly and quite frankly they’re unnecessary, because there’s really no reason not to have just one or two towers in the same area providing the same exact service.”

Each TMCC tower can contain antennas from several companies.

Ortolani said the company will allow the service providers to focus on what they do best – providing mobile service.

“Moving forward, and with the cooperation of various operators, we will be building the new infrastructure for them, as opposed to them doing it themselves,” he said.

Towers – painted red and white for aircraft avoidance – are a common sight on the Kingdom’s rooftops.

Within the crowded teleco market, which is set to have eight players after a recent merger between Star-Cell and Smart Mobile, there have already been moves towards tower sharing.

Several firms, such as Hello and Excell, already share some of each others’ infrastructure, and many are considering TMCC’s presence.
Hello Chief Executive Officer Simon Perkins said discussions with TMCC had been ongoing since it was established in the Kingdom.

“We will be happy to use their services, depending on commercial conditions, which we are finalising now,” he wrote.

Alan Sinfield, chief executive officer of mobile operator qb, said that duplicating infrastructure was often unnecessary, and qb would look to share towers if possible as it expanded its network.

“If [TMCC] have sites available in these locations then we would, of course, consider using them subject to commercial terms, and an understanding of their ongoing capabilities,” he wrote.

At a conference on tower sharing last year, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said he supported the initiative.

Ortolani said the firm was open to leasing space to other technologies, such as broadband technology WiMAX, as long as frequencies did not conflict.

Although much of the Kingdom is now dotted with towers, Ortolani said there was still likely to be expansion by service providers. A future roll-out of Fourth Generation technology would likely double the domestic demand for towers.

The MPTC has licensed at least one other firm to provide the same service as TMCC, but it is not yet active, he added.

“We like our first-mover advantage coming into the market, but there’s room for another tower company in Cambodia – no question,” he said.

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