The number of mobile phone subscribers nationwide decreased by 11.5 per cent over the last year in what regulators are describing as a rebalancing after the market reached a saturation point, pushing well beyond 100 per cent penetration.
“Market demand was fully satisfied, as it reached its peak, so it was not surprising to see the number of subscribers decrease a bit,” Im Vutha, director of the regulation and dispute unit at the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), said yesterday.
According to TRC data, Cambodia had a total of 19.2 million mobile phone subscribers as of the end of June, down from 21.7 million a year earlier. By comparison, the Cambodian population stands at about 15 million, an indication that many subscribers owned more than one line.
Vutha said the decline in subscribers was a message to the Kingdom’s six mobile operators that “now is the time to compete on quality and service”.
Chhim Sang Heng, manager of Hak Se Phone Shop in Phnom Penh, said he has seen a noticeable reduction in new SIM card sales, while the recent consolidation of telecom companies – including Metfone’s acquisition of Beeline last year – has resulted in thousands of cancelled lines.
In addition, whereas previously many mobile users owned SIM cards from several different companies, he said many appear to be sticking just to the three main players: Smart, Metfone and Cellcard.
“The trend of selling SIM cards has slowed down, while I’ve noticed that most subscribers use only the lines of two or three operators since the telecoms consolidated.”
While the number of mobile phone lines in Cambodia has declined, TRC data show internet use continues to grow, driven in a large part by increasing smartphone ownership.
Total fixed-line internet subscribers reached 88,000 as of the end of June, compared to about 77,000 a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of mobile internet users rose to just under 7.2 million by the end of June, from about 6.2 million a year earlier.
Cambodia currently has six mobile operators, eight fixed-line operators, 33 ISPs and 18 licensed VoIP operators.