Kazakh firm’s service was OK’d before PPCTV was given its monopoly licence, documents show.
We still hope this ... unclear situation will be clarified by the government.
AMONOPOLY licence granted to Phnom Penh Cable Television (PPCTV) to provide internet protocol television (IPTV) services over its fibre-optic network was granted only after new entrant Digi had already been issued a licence to offer the same services, documents show.
The monopoly licence was issued to the incumbent by the Ministry of Information via a prakas, or edict, dated August 6, 2008, and signed by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, according to a copy of the licence seen by the Post.
PPCTV owner Sok Chamroeun applied for the licence on August 1, but only after Digi received a licence from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to offer IPTV and Voice over IP (VoIP) services in June 2008. The licence, which Digi made available to the Post, contained no geographical exclusions.
The Ministry of Information had on February 6 of that year issued a prakas authorising Digi to offer cable television services, also signed by Khieu Kanharith. However, that license specified that programming needed to be delivered via the MUDS and DVB-H technologies.
MUDS stands for Multi Unit Dwelling Systems, a technology that is used to distribute a satellite signal to multiple dwellings in a geographically contained area from a base station on-site. DVB-H is a mobile TV technology.
The Ministry of Information is now attempting to prevent Digi, which is operated by Kazakhstan-backed DTV Star, from launching IPTV services over its fibre-optic network, citing the exclusive licence granted to PPCTV.
Andrey Shin, CEO of DTV Star, which operates the Digi brand, said the company had asked both ministries to clarify the situation but had not received a response.
“Our position is that we have the full right to supply IPTV services because we have a licence from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications,” he said.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said that jurisdiction over IPTV and related technology had been transferred to the Ministry of Information since the licence was issued. However, he acknowledged that it was unusual for a technology matter to be controlled by a body usually concerned with content.
“In Cambodia, we have a different way of doing some things,” he said.
He said he would support Digi in transferring the licence issued by his ministry to the Information Ministry for ratification.
Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to comment Sunday.
The order appears to have come from senior government circles. In a letter to Khieu Kanharith dated July 29 sent on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon said that “the government agreed to allow only the PP CABLE TV to keep broadcasting through the IPTV system, while DTV Star Ltd has to transmit its signal wave through MUDS system in compliance with the decision of the Ministry of Information.”
The letter followed a request for guidance from the Information Ministry, a request that was commented on by Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to documents.
A notice circulated by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun on September 4 to relevant ministries and government offices, including the prime minister’s cabinet, reiterated the instructions from the Council of Ministers.
In the meantime, Shin said, Digi was continuing to negotiate with content providers in preparation for launching the service under its licence. It had already invested in equipment to receive content from providers and was just determining the best way to distribute that content.
The preference was to use IPTV technology, as per its licence, he said.
No investment protection
“We still hope this ambiguous and unclear situation will be clarified by the government,” Shin said. “The government has not provided protection for our investment, but we still hope the government will solve the problem in the near future.”
PPCTV Sales and Marketing Manager Ty Phary refused to comment on the issue, and Sok Chamroeun could not be reached.
A lawyer previously told the Post that Cambodia was free to offer a monopoly licence in the sector, as television broadcasting and distribution was not covered by the country’s World Trade Organisation market-access commitments, but that the monopoly had to be granted under transparent rules. “Whether that was the case here remains to be seen,” the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.