CAMBODIA'S eighth mobile service provider, Smart Mobile, launched on Friday with an unspecified investment from its parent company in Cyprus, the company said.
Owned by Latelz Co Ltd, a subsidiary of international telecommunications holding firm Timeturns Holdings Ltd, Smart Mobile will operate with the 010 and 093 prefixes.
The company owns telecommunications licences in Southeast Asia and Africa.
Thomas Hundt, chief executive officer of Latelz Co Ltd, said that even with so many players in the market, Cambodia's mobile sector has room to grow.
"Despite the financial crisis, mobile phone service is a basic need for people, especially in developing countries," said Hundt. "Only around 24 percent of the Cambodian population has access to mobile phones."
He said Smart Mobile is 100-percent owned by Timeturns Holdings.
"We cannot reveal the size of the investment, but to start a mobile phone network, it costs millions of dollars," said Hundt, who added that the company's coverage includes Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said at the launch ceremony that more competition would benefit the sector.
If we don't grant them a licence, we will be in violation of WTO rules.
"Smart Mobile will contribute to the development of the telecommunications sector," he said. "I hope other mobile telecommunications providers will cooperate with Smart Mobile for interconnection ... to ensure fair competition and grow together for a win-win situation."
He said he expected continued growth in the sector despite the global economic slowdown.
"The telecom market in Cambodia is growing so quickly and the trend is expected to continue," So Khun said.
But he told the Post that the market could become saturated if too many companies launch.
"We have granted 11 network licenses so far, and eight of them have been operating," So Khun told the Post Sunday. "But I think Cambodia only needs three mobile service providers."
"We have told investors about the market, but they still want to invest in this field," said So Khun. "If we don't grant them a licence, we will be in violation of WTO rules."
So Khun also said he applauded Smart Mobile's plans to invest in infrastructure, and he reassured companies that telecom regulations would be strictly enforced to ensure fair competition among service providers.
Cambodia's mobile companies include Mobitel (012, 092, 017, 089), Hello GSM (015,016), Mfone (011, 099, 085), qb (013), Star-Cell (098), Excel (018), Metfone (097) and Smart Mobile.
Officials said a ninth player may be set to launch in Cambodia. In December, Sotelco - the Cambodian subsidiary of Russia's VimpelCom - announced plans to build a nationwide GSM system over the next five years.