Driven by increased competition and the need for telecom providers to constantly upgrade their services, Cellcard announced that it plans to invest around $200 million in upgrading its 4G infrastructure in the next 12 months, the CEO of the company said yesterday.
Speaking at the 4G LTE and Security World Forum in Phnom Penh, Cellcard executive Ian Watson said that telecommunications operators need to invest in expanding and improving high-speed mobile network coverage in the Kingdom in order to remain competitive.
“Everyone knows the future is 4G for data and it is very important we continue to expand the network,” he said. “In the market that we operate in, unless you’ve got the capacity, the pricing and the content, you won’t survive.”
“We will continue to invest in our entire infrastructure, and we will invest around $200 million over the next 12 months,” he said during the panel discussion.
He added that telecommunication providers are fighting for increased market share, which has made prices for consumers among some of the lowest in the world. Expectations of cheaper services are transferred to mobile data prices, forcing operators to offer increasingly attractive plans.
“We are changing our plans basically weekly because content is king in a data environment and whoever has the best content or the best platform will win the battle,” he said. “We are in a position with the other telecoms where we are working closely to develop a seamless environment where no matter where you are in Cambodia, whether in a province or one of the cities, you can have connectivity.”
However, companies need to balance the price concerns of all their consumers, who not only have different data needs but also have very different payment abilities, meaning 4G is not accessible to everyone, he said.
“Another thing which stops the expansion of 4G in Cambodia is the availability of 4G handsets and the affordability of big brands like Samsung or Apple, which can reach up to $700 or $800 per phone,” he said. “Because 4G is so fast and you are downloading data, people also do not understand why their bills have gone up, but it’s because they consume so much data, so quickly all of the time.”
Steven Path, president of the Cambodian ICT Federation, told the Post that 4G development will help steer Cambodia towards a data-driven economy and is a step towards developing smart cities in the Kingdom. He added that recent developments in 4G can help Cambodia overtake more developed economies that have yet to widely implement the technology.
“For any country, quality broadband and fast internet access are requirements to build smart cities,” he said. “4G is an area where Cambodia can leapfrog neighbouring countries which have yet to develop 4G, Vietnam especially.”
Mok Khemara, director of the e-Government Department at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, told the audience that further developing ICT infrastructure was one of the priorities set forward by the government, especially given the number of mobile internet users in the country.
“The ICT Master plan for 2020 outlines the goal of 100 percent broadband coverage services in urban areas and 70 percent in rural areas by 2020,” he said. “If we look at mobile internet subscribers, there are over seven million subscribers, which is 98 percent of the country’s market share.”
With 3.4 million active social media users in Cambodia and 5 million active internet users, Khemara highlighted the importance of further developing mobile communications, citing a World Bank statistic that showed increasing internet penetration by 10 percent can contribute to 1.38 percent in GDP growth.