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Telecom Ministry launches regulator

Telecom Ministry launches regulator

A man talks on the phone at a Hello phone-operator stand. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications officially launched the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) yesterday in an attempt to establish laws to control, and resolve conflicts among, telecoms operators.

The move is likely to come as a relief to the eight telecom operators in Cambodia, because fierce competition has caused lower profits for all.

Post and Telecommunications Minister So Khun said the TRC’s establishment supported other regulations for managing  conflicts among mobile network operators (MNOs).

Industry experts said forced consolidation, under which operators would be told by a certain date that only a lesser number of MNOs would be allowed, could take place, forcing some industry players to merge.

Industry players include Mobitel, operating under the Cellcard brand, Mfone, Smart Mobile, Hello, EXCELL, QB, Metfone and Beeline.  With a variety of technologies and infrastructure, differing in both urban and rural coverage, consolidation of operators is a matchmaking exercise likely to take place in the coming months.

The establishment of a regulator is seen as good news for existing MNOs because instead of all of them losing money in what has been described as “a game of chicken” and “waiting for rival operators to flinch”, there will be a chance for smaller numbers of operators to make a profit.

Regulation of how much telecommunications operators can give away in terms of free minutes is expected, experts say.

So Khun said the creation of the TRC had been partly the result of demands by Japanese officials who provided nearly US$30 million in loans for the extension of about 400 kilometres of optical cables to the Kingdom’s southwestern provinces.

Cambodia had more than 20,000 kilometres of optical cable, and mobile phone service covered more than 90 per cent of the country, So Khun said.

“Optical cables are for sending the voice. When we speak, the sound wave is converted into electrical  impulses and transmitted through the cable,” he said.

“TRC will enforce laws that relate to the use of radio frequencies, monitoring and providing the licences and resolving conflict between licenses.”

As well as eight MNOs, Cambodia  has 40 internet service providers.

TRC chairman Moa Chakrya said  the establishment of the body had shifted roles previously under the ministry’s jurisdiction.

“The TRC aims to benefit operators and the users through greater fairness and transparency,” he said.

“We want to reform for the better.  This means we will manage other regulations and what’s important to regulate.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]
Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]