JAZZ Gill has had a long career in technology, telecommunications and private equity.
He set up a body-building and exercise goods distribution business when he was 18, which eventually led to the establishment of a software company. Later, he earned an MBA at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.
He also has worked in the development of new technologies for several global technology firms, including Global Crossing and Motorola. For the past three years, Gill has worked in Cambodia as a telecoms and technologies consultant, as well as associate partner at Leopard Capital.
He sat down with the Post to discuss the future of telecommunications and emerging technologies in the Kingdom. Check out his weekly tech and telecoms column in the Post every Monday.
You've been here for three years. How have you seen the telecommunications space develop?
Here you have a small population of about 14.5 million, eight or nine mobile operat-ors working in this ecosystem and a large number of internet service providers as well. What I've seen is that over the past couple of years, there has been tremendous price competition among these operators. What I haven’t seen is them being more creative and innovative. One thing that is crucial for success in the mobile or ISP industry is increasing ARPU [average revenue per user] and reducing the churn [users who switch from one service provider to another]. You want to lock these customers into a loyal brand. What I saw in the early days was a lot of switching between brands. You would have one guy carrying three or four phones and switching between networks depending on who was giving him the best rate. But recently, in the past year or so, i've seen more brand loyalty. Customers are staying more fixed to the brand. Mobile operators are putting more effort into marketing and advertising. But I still see they need to be more customer-focused. They also need to have faster networks and stable networks.
What can you say about the future of the industry?
When you have eight or nine mobile operators in the market space and you have only 14.5 million people, there are only so many people you can serve. So obviously there's got to be a reduction in providers at some point. Lots of operators have come into the market because it's a frontier market and they want to capture the market. But there will obviously be consolidation, and some operators will go out of business. Either that or they'll have to change strategy. They'll have to move into other areas of technology, whether it be multimedia, digital media or content. They need to diversify and provide new content.
Why are these companies staying in the Cambodian market?
A lot of these companies are surviving because they have interests from outside Cambodia with deep pockets. If they were organically grown businesses, without any investment from outside, a lot of these businesses would be out of business by now. Because you can’t run a business that isn't making cash. I don’t think many of them are very liquid. But they keep going on the premise that one of them will become the winner.
How is the usage of technology changing in the Kingdom?
People are using more and more smartphones. Everybody's got an HTC, everybody's got an iPhone. Most of these devices were originally used for voice and SMS, but now they are being used for browsing content, uploading content, shooting video, taking pictures.
What are the limitations Cambodians face as they pick up new forms of technology?
When you go into a café in Phnom Penh, you have WiFi. When you pair up your device to WiFi, you get a very good broadband experience with no glitches as long as the network is strong. You can enjoy what you're downloading and sending back up into the cloud. But when you’re using a 3G service outside, which I’ve utilised many times before, you get a lot of lag. You're trying to download a page, but the page gets stuck. And, after the third or fourth attempt, you just give up. If you're using these devices as a digital tool, you can't pull this information through. The network doesn’t give you the capacity to do this. 3G wasn’t made for smartphones and tablet devices and all the content and applications we use on these devices. 3G was made for voice and some data.
What is the solution to this problem?
What we need now is the evolution of the network to the next level. Because if we’re using these devices which are bandwidth-hungry, we need to have a very stable and very fast network that can actually utilise all these applicat-ions and content. We need to go 4G . . . 4G allows users to push information up into the cloud and download at the same bandwidth – a symmetric network.