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Smart rolls out 4G network

CEO of Smart Thomas Hundt speaks at a press conference about the impending roll out of the companies 4G network at NagaWorld Casino in Phnom Penh
CEO of Smart Thomas Hundt speaks at a press conference about the impending roll out of the companies 4G network at NagaWorld Casino in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Smart rolls out 4G network

Mobile internet speeds in Cambodia are ratcheting up a notch.

Smart Mobile, the country’s second largest operator by subscribers, is making 4G LTE internet available to customers this week, the company announced yesterday during the launch of the service at NagaWorld Casino.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart, said 4G LTE access is now operational in six “Experience Zones”, including NagaWorld, Sovanna Shopping Centre, Ratana Plaza Shopping Mall, De Castle Toul Kork, Phnom Penh’s airport and the firm’s Boeung Trabek store.

People wishing to access the network, which promises mobile internet speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G-capable devices, will need to swap their existing SIM card with Smart’s new 4G LTE SIMs.

Hundt said that in order to use the network, new Smart subscribers must either already have a 4G-capable device or purchase one at a local branch, which offers models starting at $150. A basic plan goes for $5 per for 1 gigabyte of data. Use all the data before the month is up and the telco offers a pay-as-you-use system, which will charge at the rate of 500 kilobytes per US cent.

While the announced 4G LTE footprint is restricted to only a few locations, Hundt said the company plans to expand the network to Sorya Shopping Centre, Phnom Penh Tower, Vattanac tower and Siem Reap International Airport by March.

By June, he said, the network will be available in nearly all of downtown Phnom Penh.

4G LTE, or Long Term Evolution, which was first launched in South Korea in 2011, is the latest standardised version of the mobile internet network approved by the International Telecommunications Union, and can generate download speeds of up to 150 megabytes per second.

In practical terms, downloading a 5-megabyte piece of music will take about two seconds, compared with 20 seconds on a 3G network; a full HD video file will take about 30 minutes to download, compared to roughly five hours on 3G.

Smart’s launch comes after Chinese-owned mobile operator CooTel announced 4G services on November 1. But Hundt dismissed his competitor’s product.

“There are some ISPs [internet service providers] here in Cambodia that say they are operating a 4G network. Whatever it is they are using, it is not 4G,” he said.

CooTel could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kevin Der Arslanian, a telecommunications analyst and partner at consulting firm China Metrix in Shanghai, said the new network would differentiate the big competitors from the small.

“4G in itself has only one advantage, that is faster mobile internet for things such as videos, music and applications,” he said. “Cambodian telco firms have been focusing too heavily for too long on the price war, it is good to see offerings of better services charged at a premium,” he said. “I expect a domino effect and to see a quick reaction from competitors rolling out their own 4G networks.”

The launch coincides with reports that South Korea will commence 5G network plans, again positioning itself as a pioneer in the mobile internet revolution. “Eventually, 5G may come to Cambodia, but 4G is a very big step for now,” Der Arslanian said.

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