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Seatel banks on its 4G services

Han Hanchou, the president of Seatel Group and general manager of Seatel Cambodia, speaks at the official launch of Seatel Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Han Hanchou, the president of Seatel Group and general manager of Seatel Cambodia, speaks at the official launch of Seatel Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Seatel banks on its 4G services

Entering Cambodia’s oversubscribed telco sector, new entrant and Chinese-owned Southeast Asia Telecommunications is placing its bets on a 100 per cent 4G network, as it looks to differentiate itself from the Kingdom’s already-established telecom providers.

Southeast Asia Telecommunications, or Seatel, officially launched its operations yesterday in Phnom Penh, despite having entered the country last year. Seatel said it is currently available in 17 provinces, including the capital, Kandal, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap, and will cover the remaining provinces by year-end.

“We have been constructing a 4G network with a speed 10 times higher than that of 3G,” said Han Hanchou, general manager of Seatel Cambodia.

“Our fiber network extends nearly 7,000 kilometres in Cambodia.”

According to Han, Seatel’s total investment is about $400 million, of which $100 million has been invested so far.

Seatel will provide prospective customers with 4G VoLTE services, which promises high-speed internet and high-quality calling, with Smart Axiata being the only other 4G provider in Cambodia.

Unlike other established telecom operators, Seatel will not have 2G or 3G in its service portfolio.

Given Seatel’s entry into the market, Moa Chakrya, chairman of the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia, said it was testament to Cambodia’s open and competitive telecom policy.

He added that he did not expect to see a “price war” among operators in the sector, and that the new development will only strengthen the offerings of the industry.

“Their mobile technology enables us to narrow the digital gap between Cambodia and developed countries in ASEAN,” he said.

Having recently announced expansion of its 4G services to all 25 provinces, Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, said his company wasn’t “shy of competition” and that their wider portfolio of services would give them the edge.

“With having 4G LTE, as well as an underlying 2G and 3G network, allows our customers to stay connected literally everywhere in the Kingdom,” Hundt said.

Hundt added that Seatel’s only-4G strategy was a “bold move”, given that 4G LTE capable smartphone penetration was low in Cambodia and also relatively pricey.

“I can neither recall any example of an operator anywhere in the world succeeding with a 3G-only or 4G-only network,” he said.

In order to convert subscribers to their service, Seatel would have to come up with an “innovative strategy”, akin to how Smart used marketing and promotions and Metfone did with its network reach, said Anthony Galliano, CEO of local social media marketing firm Dynamo Digital.

Galliano said that voice and text were now “commodity offerings” in Cambodia and that the differentiator going forward would be data services.

“The market is starving for faster internet – on average Cambodia is well behind developed Asian countries,” Galliano said.

“If Seatel can differentiate with demonstrably better speed, the consumer will shift.”

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