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Two licences voided in frequency controversy

Companies seek answer from Hun Sen on overlapping permits

THE permits of two Internet companies affected by the government’s issuing of overlapping radio frequency licences have been revoked, the Post has discovered.

Last week, seven of Cambodia’s leading ISPs wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for help after Star Digital TV was licensed by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) to use a large chunk of the radio frequency spectrum.

The frequency had already been given to nine other companies, many of which intended to use it to launch wireless Internet services using WiMax technology. Overlapping frequencies make such technology impossible to use.

On Thursday, an industry source who declined to be named said two of the nine companies affected had received letters from the MPTC revoking their licences. The letters are reportedly dated Friday, the day after the complaint was sent to Hun Sen.

The companies were, according to the industry executive, offered no compensation and told that the decision had been made in September. It is not yet clear which businesses are affected.

New research by Internet service providers (ISPs) has also revealed that licences issued to the telecommunications industry overlapped before the latest row thrust the problem into the spotlight.

At a crisis meeting last week, eight of the nine companies affected shared details of their licences for the first time. Analysis carried out since the meeting shows that frequency licences awarded to eight companies accounted for the whole 2.5 – 2.7GHz spectrum.

This means that the ninth company, US-based Craig Wireless Systems, must have been awarded a duplicate licence.

An official from one of the ISPs affected said Monday: “It is clear Craig Wireless is overlapping with somebody. So, based on our analysis, there were already overlaps in frequency licences before Star Digital TV.”

The companies affected are Angkor Data Communication Group, Cambodia Data, Chuan Wei, CityLink, Craig Wireless Systems, Global Telecom, Sotelco, WiCam Corp and Wireless IP.

The Internet companies are concerned that a future inability to secure a dedicated frequency could jeopardise investments that might eventually entail tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure.

The companies said they would like to make a presentation to the government to “create an understanding of what is at stake”. They have expressed a belief that unless the situation is clarified, Cambodia will be unable to benefit from wireless Internet technology that they think is essential to the country’s economic development.

The ISPs have yet to receive a reply from Hun Sen’s office.

A representative from the office, when contacted by the Post, referred the issue to the MPTC.

On Thursday, MPTC Director General Mao Chakrya, declined to comment on the issue.

The issue was brought up, along with more general concerns, at a Government-Private Sector Forum meeting Thursday.

According to Hyam Bolande, vice president of Chuan Wei, an MPTC representative said the government “would respond officially later”.

The manager of Star Digital TV has been overseas for the past week and was unavailable for comment Thursday.

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