Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Telecom regulator to steer clear of service providers’ price war

Telecom regulator to steer clear of service providers’ price war

A woman stands under a Cellcard umbrella next to a Smart promotional billboard in August in Phnom Penh.
A woman stands under a Cellcard umbrella next to a Smart promotional billboard in August in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Telecom regulator to steer clear of service providers’ price war

After a year of toothless warnings against below-cost mobile deals – which it previously called “suspicious” and “unfair” – the country’s telecommunications regulator yesterday capitulated, instead beseeching operators to steer clear of confusing marketing and maintain the quality of their services.

The Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) will no longer attempt to intervene in what was earlier dubbed an “epic price war” between mobile network operators, it said yesterday, explaining that users were benefitting from lower prices.

Im Vutha, TRC spokesman, said the situation was under control – even if the same deals persisted – and providing benefits to the public.

“If there is a sign that one operator is dominating the market and could potentially lead the market exclusively, we will intervene,” Vutha said, adding that currently all operators were able to run their businesses profitably.

“So far, the lower cost of internet services being provided by telecom operators has been a benefit for other sectors, like payment services, financial services, e-commerce and online shopping,” he said.

Early this year, competition between the sector’s bigger players – notably Smart Axiata and CamGSM’s Cellcard – saw the launch of promotional packages allowing subscribers to exchange $1 for more than $100 worth of on-network data, calls and messaging services. The TRC said at the time that the “unfair pricing” was preventing new entrants from being able to cover their costs.

Vutha said yesterday that the regulator’s priority had turned to increasing public awareness about the possible consequences of a price war. As operators compete on price, Vutha observed, service quality can become poorer.

TRC officials had been receiving complaints from the public about poor service, and confusing promotions that have caused subscribers to lose money on their accounts, he said.

Chhin Sreynet, a 27-year-old snack vendor in Phnom Penh, said she enjoyed the benefits of the promotional deals, and spent no more than $5 per month for all her calls and data.

“It’s much cheaper than several years ago,” she said. “Now, I don’t need to ask for WiFi passwords when hanging out at shops or restaurants, because the internet package I have is enough.”

Teng Sokha, a 55-year-old sugarcane juice vendor, however, said she does not use the internet and had lost money on her account after refilling it because it was connected to a promotion that he had not intended to subscribe to.

“Sometimes I refill my account for $5, but I only see $3 left,” he said.

Ian Watson, chief executive officer Cellcard operator CamGSM, said he welcomed the TRC alert, agreeing that it was important to take a holistic view of the market and assess plans and promos on whether they were being communicated transparently.

“I can assure you that at Cellcard we do not deduct any balance without the customer subscribing to a service,” he said, adding that if there is any question about subscriptions, users can check with the company’s contact centre to clarify.

MOST VIEWED

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • Cellcard announces Cambodia’s first use of 5G to help Kingdom during Covid-19

    Cellcard on Friday announced Cambodia’s first use of 5G for a telemedicine service at four locations across Phnom Penh to help the Kingdom’s most critically ill during the Covid-19 outbreak. Cellcard, which is the only 100 per cent Cambodian-owned and "Proudly Khmer" mobile network

  • Former CNRP activist nabbed for offering online English classes

    Authorities detained a high school teacher in Kampong Chhnang province on Thursday after he was caught conducting online classes despite the fact that schools had been ordered to close temporarily to prevent Covid-19 infections. Keo Thai teaches at Boribo High School in Kampong Chhnang and

  • Health ministry warns against using virus-testing machines

    The Ministry of Health has threatened legal action against anyone who publicised their test results after using COVID-19 rapid testing machines. The ministry said such machines were not even approved or recognised for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It said test the results

  • National Assembly approves two coal-fired power plants

    The National Assembly (NA) unanimously approved draft laws paving the way for the construction of two coal-fired power plants worth $1.665 billion to supply 100 per cent of electricity required in the Kingdom by 2025. An NA member said at the session that the plants will be located

  • The good and bad of credit growth

    In the last 10 years, the property and construction sectors have propelled Cambodia’s economy. But rising borrowings threaten to dampen its future unless something is done soon They say all good things must come to an end, perhaps not “the” end. A slowdown in real