Tourists visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap are able to use their mobile phones for the first time following the construction of six mobile network towers in a pilot project that aims to expand mobile network coverage within the park.
Rath Sok Khoeurn, a spokesman for Camtowerlink Communications, the local telecom services firm that installed the towers, said the six antennas were disguised as trees and placed near the park’s most popular Angkor-era temples. The camouflaged towers provide mobile connectivity in areas previously limited by dense foliage and signal range limitations.
“The six towers were placed in crowded tourist areas where there used to be connection shortages and will now provide better network access to visitors while minimising the impact on the environment,” he said yesterday.
The company is currently working with telecom operators to establish access to different mobile networks through the shared infrastructure, Sok Khoeurn said.
Smart Axiata has already signed a contract and installed its equipment on four of the new installations, currently allowing tourists to access the company’s network. The other operators are expected to follow, with the major networks in place before the official launch of the six towers sometime next month.
“Smart is already operating and Cellcard will be available starting next week,” Sok Khoeurn said. “We are currently in negotiations with Metfone and Seatel.”
The Apsara Authority signed an agreement with Camtowerlink last March to install the six towers, reversing its longstanding policy that telecom operators could not place antennae near the UNESCO World Heritage site as it might negatively impact the view and environment.
“We received a lot of complaints from tourists and villagers about the [lack of] mobile connectivity near the temples and in the surrounding area,” explained Long Kosal, director of the communications department at the Apsara Authority.
“The deployment of antennae disguised as trees will provide better network access, benefitting the entire area as well as allowing tourists to share their photos with their family and friends through their phones, and enabling communication in case of emergencies.”
Camtowerlink has previous experience installing camouflaged mobile towers in Malaysia, according to Im Vutha, spokesman for the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia (TRC). He said the unobtrusive design and shared tower model was best suited for the heritage site.
“The government provided the licence to Camtowerlink because of their experience with this type of installations, instead of allowing all the different telecom companies to each build their own towers,” he explained. “The agreement will reduce the environmental impact of providing network coverage to the tourist site while also reducing costs for the telecoms, who will pay rental fees to the IT company.”
Camtowerlink has signed an agreement with the Apsara Authority to build an additional 18 camouflaged towers in the park.