ON the special occasion of Malaysia National Day, The Phnom Penh Post thought it was the perfect time to review the merger of Smart and Hello. Below, Moeun Nhean, the Post’s special reports editor, speaks with Thomas Hundt, the CEO of Smart and Hello about how the integration of the two well-known telecommunication companies has been going.
Post : First of all, thank you for agreeing to answer to our questions and allowing us to learn more about this new combined company. Since you know a lot about the telecom sector, can you give us your opinion of the state of the industry today compared to previous years?
Hundt: The mobile telecom industry has been dramatically changing over the past few years. Not only that finally a market consolidation took place in which Smart was the key driver. As a result, the service offerings and the pricing have been dramatically changed.
Five years ago mobile communication was rather a luxury product while nowadays the service is affordable, allowing all Cambodians to use mobile phones. While five years ago voice calls were practically the only service, mobile internet became the second key service through the availability of 3G, especially through Smart’s 3.75G.
Post: Since the merging of Smart and Hello in February 2013, what’s the result of this cooperation? Has your user network have increased?
Hundt: With the merger of Smart Mobile and Hello Axiata, the new Smart Axiata became the strong number two mobile operator in Cambodia (after CamGSM Co’s MobiTel).
Smart, meanwhile, serves more than 5.5 million subscribers, has seen a constant growth of its subscriber base. The significantly enlarged network, the integration of the Hello network into the Smart network, the combined product and service portfolio, the increased benefits to our combined subscriber base as one within network community, the most affordable rates and tariffs – have in combination lifted Smart during the past months.
Post: What are your current earnings and revenue?
Hundt : Since Smart is part of Axiata Group, a stock market listed company, I am not able to reveal the current figures. Axiata Group will announce results of the second quarter on August 30.
Post: Now that Smart has become Cambodia’s second-largest operator in Cambodia’s competitive phone industry, what is your market strategy for the near future? How are you planning for the possible ASEAN integration by 2015?
Hundt: Yes, Smart with its subscriber base is the strong number two mobile operator in Cambodia. Smart is in process of rolling out significant investments during this year, both into its 2G as well as 3G network. During the remainder of 2013 Smart will more than double its 3G network. Also during 2014 and 2015 significant investments in the network and service portfolio are planned.
Post: Providing internet service is another big aspect of the industry. Some companies use 3G, and 3.5G and even 4G. Where does your company stand as an internet provider.
Hundt: Smart is probably the leading mobile internet provider in Cambodia! Smart’s 3G network, which is available in all 24 provinces, features network wide HSPA+ and even partially DC-HSPA, which are the most advanced evolutions of 3G – marketed by Smart as 3.75G.
Smart will heavily focus on building up the 3.75G network, the majority of the investments of the present and near future will go into improving the 3.75G network.
Post: Can you explain the process and the experience of merging two big networks for our readers?.
Hundt : Merging two mobile networks is a highly complex exercise. The integration of the Hello network into the homogenous Smart network was achieved by the end of July, beginning of August, resulting in a substantially increased network footprint as well as increased capacity, therewith signal strength and reach. After some fine tuning in August, the network quality has been significantly improved, both in terms of 2G and 3G.
Smart, as part of a significant investment program, does currently extend the network further, both in terms of capacity and coverage to cater to the increasing demand of voice calls and internet by the continuously increasing customer base of Smart.
Smart is fully committed to keep investing in and bettering its network, to improve the network quality and to enlarge the product portfolio.
Post: Will the post-election political deadlock affect to your business or phone industry in general?
Hundt: Uncertainty is per se never good for business. Accordingly, Smart, and likely the entire business community, is hoping for a timely, peaceful and forward-looking resolution.
Prior, during and after the national elections however, the desire for information has been further growing among the population, which has pushed the use of internet.