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Ministry passes prakas on telecom connections

Ministry passes prakas on telecom connections

091009_07
Customers sit outside a Hello store in Phnom Penh. The government this week passed a new edict that specifies responsibilities among telcos to guarantee interconnectivity. BLOOMBERG

Edict marks first step taken by MPTC to introduce legislation following sector disagreement between Mobitel and Beeline

THE government signed into force a new prakas, or edict, regulating interconnectivity between mobile phone operators Monday as part of efforts to resolve a dispute over alleged call-blocking between market leader Mobitel and new entrant Beeline.

Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications Director General Mao Chakrya said the prakas replaced interconnection regulations dating from 2003 that had grown obsolete in the face of intensifying competition in the sector as new players entered the market.

The ministry was also preparing a second prakas on industry tariffs in response to accusations against Beeline of unfair competition and price dumping, but its timing would depend on consultations with the sector over the issue, Mao Chakrya said.

The prakas on interconnectivity sets out guidelines for operators to follow when negotiating interconnect agreements, establishes the rights and responsibilities of operators, and outlines a framework for determining interconnection capacity.

It calls on operators to attempt to resolve their disputes but sets out procedures for ministry intervention to enforce interconnect agreements. In any dispute, the complainant must “prove” the complaint based on economic or technical grounds, which Mao Chakrya said Beeline had not done in its dispute with Mobitel.

Operators have the right to appeal to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if not happy with the ruling, the document says.
The Post obtained a copy of the 28-page prakas late Wednesday.

Hello CEO Simon Perkins said Thursday that he had not seen the new edict, nor had he been informed of its passing. Smart Mobile CEO Thomas Hundt said he received the prakas Wednesday, but it had not yet been translated.

Ben Khudair, director of Cambodia Advanced Communications (CADCOMMS), which operates the qb network, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Beeline General Director Gael Campan and Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of The Royal Group, the minority shareholder in market leader Mobitel, were also not available.

The prakas was developed in response to an ongoing dispute between Beeline and Mobitel in which the Russian-owned company has accused the market leader of blocking its calls. Cambodia General Director Gael Campan told the Post last month that its interconnectivity tests showed that around 25 percent of calls to and from the dominant player’s network get through, but that rate varies day to day.

Beeline has in turn been accused by Mobitel of using its five prefixes – 012, 017, 092, 089, 077 – without permission in a bid to bypass the block. Mobitel has launched a lawsuit against Beeline over the use of its prefixes and what it calls “dishonest competition” over alleged below-cost pricing.

The interconnect prakas does not change the agreed cost of cross-network calls, but Mao Chakrya said Wednesday that charging customers less than cost did not violate existing Cambodian laws, despite an inter-ministerial circular dated September 29 asking operators to cease offering cross-network tariffs below the agreed cost or “free of charge” tariffs. Compliance with the request was voluntary, he said.

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