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Ministry to boost telco rules

Ministry to boost telco rules

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The Cambodian government has approved the establishment of a regulatory body for telecommunications, a sector where lax or non-existent rules have led to frequency and pricing disputes, insiders said.

Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Telecom Cambodia office along Monivong Blvd.

The Cambodia Telecom Regulator, which Prime Minister Hun Sen approved in a draft sub-decree on Friday, will aim to make rules clearer and more transparent, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun said.

“The establishment of CTR will improve the telecom sector’s present management system by separating the functional roles of the Ministry of Post and Telecom,” a press release from the ministry stated.

The regulator will become a public entity authorised by the government, with autonomy over technical and administrative controls, as well as establishment, operations, and usage of network and telecom services, the press release said.

Industry leaders said the regulator is a much-welcomed step for Cambodia’s telecommunications. “We have been waiting for this for a long time,” CEO of Mekong Net Sok Channda said.  “Previously, it had been difficult to do business because we didn’t have an exact law.”

After Mekong Net bought a frequency license for WiMax services in 2005, the ministry continued to sell licenses for that frequency, Sok Channda said. The result was overlapping license claims from multiple ISP providers.

The lack of clear regulation has been a persistent problem in the sector.

In January 2010, the ministry granted a frequency licence to Star Digital TV that overlapped with several other providers, the Post reported at the time. In the row, two companies’ licenses were revoked, reportedly without compensation.

Mekong Net has submitted claims to the ministry in the past, all of which have gone unanswered, Sok Channda said.

Kay Lot, the operations manager for Mobitel, said he supported the initiative to resolve pricing disputes in the sector.

“It is a positive development in the telecom sector to have established a transparent telecom law that finally makes clear distinctions between the ministry and regulators,” he said, adding that the new laws would encourage potential investors and increase confidence. Mobitel accused other mobile providers of price dumping in September 2009, the Post reported. Earlier that year, the United Nations Development Programme said Cambodia’s mobile market needed more regulation to prevent industry malpractice.

Government statistics showed 13 million people, representing 91 per cent of Cambodia’s total population, are subscribers to mobile-phone and fixed-phone services, with roughly 680,000 internet subscribers.

Numbers obtained last month by the Post showed 14.9 million mobile subscribers, or more than the total population of the country.

Service providers in Cambodia have long decried subscriber-counting practices and standards, saying that each company has a different standard for what constitutes an active user.

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