Cambodia's telecommunications industry has seen some interesting developments in 2012, including the setting up of the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) and most recently, the announcement of a merger between Hello and Smart Mobile.Simon Perkins, CEO of Hello, gave the Post’s Erika Mudie his insights on the future of telecoms in Cambodia.
Could you tell me about the telecoms industry in Cambodia and what customers can look forward to in terms of products and services?
Hello CEO Simon Perkins (left) poses for a photograph with a PSY impersonator. Photo Supplied
It’s a very interesting time for the industry, I think. The telecom industry here is dominated by mobile because historically, the fixed line infrastructure in Cambodia is quite poor. So, this country has sort of leap-frogged technologies and gone straight to mobile.
Over recent years there’s been an explosion of mobile operators in Cambodia, which peaked at nine. The population here is 15 million. It’s kind of too many. So, a country of this size could realistically support three, possibly four mobile operators.
The overcrowding in the mobile sector led to a lot of difficulties because also the regulatory environment here hadn’t developed as well as some of the countries in the region.
What’s happening now is a natural evolution toward those three or four players. Last week we announced we were merging with Smart. We’re quite similar in nature, character and size. But we’ve also been two quite strong players in the last two or three years. Together, we’ve got a significant scale.
We’ve got quite complementary businesses. Smart’s been very successful in the youth market. Our market has been mature adults and family but also quite a strong business base. It allows us to reach a wider market segment and invest more because now we’re only investing once and not twice as when we were separate.
The launch of our new product [an unlimited Facebook plan] is a restatement of that. We’ve now got something to say and this is very much the sort of thing Smart would focus on, something the youth would use.
The products and services are going to be focusing very much on developing markets and segments such as youth, data and social networking.
What do you think are the individual strengths Hello and Smart will bring to this partnership?
What you can see with Smart is that it’s a fast growing, young, dynamic team. With us, we’ve got a longer experience base, a good corporate customer base and the backing of the Axiata group.
What do you think can be done or is being done to strengthen the regulatory environment in Cambodia?
It is being done. Just this year the Telecom Regulator for Cambodia has been formed and they’re gradually working out the policies and the frameworks. What we’re all waiting for is the telecom law. There’s no overriding framework for how we operate, it’s all driven by a lot individual decrees or prakas.
So, what would be the ideal content of the telecom law, in your view?
The telecom law should separate the function of regulator from operator. It was like this in Vietnam when they first started. The regulator is also an operator; it’s the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. So, the decisions they make are not necessarily independent.
What other changes or trends do you see happening?
The devices are changing the landscape for everybody; it’s not unique to Cambodia. The prices are coming down all the time and about 50,000 smartphones a month are sold in Cambodia. It’s huge and when people really start to use the facilities on those phones it changes. The voice call has almost become a lesser part of the overall functionality now.
To contact the reporter on this story: Erika Mudie at [email protected]