The number of registered mobile SIM cards reached more than 21 million last year, up nearly 12 per cent compared to 2018, a Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) report said.

The figures show that last year, the number of registered SIM cards provided by six mobile operators reached 21.63 million – up 11.63 per cent compared to 2018.

The number is equivalent to 133 per cent of Cambodia’s total population, which stands at just over 16 million.

The report shows that mobile internet usage also saw a rapid increase with 16.12 million subscribers using their mobile phones to access online content last year, an increase of 18.47 per cent.

Fixed mobile phone users declined by 35 per cent to 57,438 while fixed broadband internet subscribers grew to 224,104, 46 per cent rise.

It said the number of registered Facebook accounts also increased 29 per cent to 8.8 million last year.

Currently, six mobile companies are operating in Cambodia – CellCard, Metfone, Smart Axiata, qb, Seatel and CooTel.

TRC spokesman Im Vutha said on Wednesday that the growing use of digital services and mobile applications in smart phones was due to the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) policy.

The policy requires telecom operators to pay two per cent of their annual revenue into the fund each year, which is then used to build further telecommunication infrastructure in rural and deprived areas.

Vutha claimed the USOF ensures development of infrastructure and services in areas where companies might not otherwise invest, while also promoting research and fostering new talent in the industry.

“The cost of the internet is affordable due to the transparency of competition. The USOF has ensured that the government has been part of this success,“ he said.

Telecommunications providers are also looking to the future, with a few leading mobile operators in the Kingdom now conducting trials to launch 5G services.

The Royal Group, which owns CamGSM Co Ltd, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in May last year to collaborate in the planning of the 5G rollout as part of the digitalisation of Cambodia.

On February 26, CamGSM showcased its progress in rolling out a 5G network, a move it said is essential for the Kingdom’s aspirations of becoming a digital economy.

In early July, 2019, Smart Axiata Co Ltd, Cambodia’s leading mobile telecommunications company, hosted the first 5G live trial showcase for its customers. Smart Axiata currently has eight million subscribers.