ON the surface, the government’s decision last week to revoke Infra Cellular (Cambodia) Co’s licence to operate shared mobile phone towers might look like the latest false start in Cambodia’s efforts to more efficiently deploy wireless infrastructure.
But signs suggest the country may finally be making progress in avoiding the doubling up of mobile-phone towers among competing companies in urban areas, an inefficiency that has plagued the sector for years, meaning some less-populated rural areas have suffered from poor or non-existent coverage.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has instructed Infra Cellular to tear down its infrastructure by the end of this week, but it remained unclear whether the firm had erected any towers anyway.
Company representatives have repeatedly remained unavailable for comment.
The company’s demise is thought to have left Tower Master Cambodia Co as the sole remaining shared-infrastructure developer in Cambodia.
After a slow start since beginning operations in 2009, Executive Vice President Anthony Ortolani said in December the company is in the process of acquiring its first towers.
This represents one of Cambodia’s first, faltering steps towards more efficient use of mobile infrastructure, which until now has been used as a competitive advantage in a crowded wireless marketplace to the detriment of coverage.
Companies including Hello and qb have increasingly looked towards greater tower-sharing over the past year in a bid to reduce costs (even if market leaders Mobitel and Viettel have shown few signs of following suit).
Similarly, the deal that saw Smart Mobile and Star Cell join forces last month means some of the merged company’s doubled up infrastructure will be redeployed by March, according to a company statement.
Smart Mobile will by this time cover all but one of the Kingdom’s 24 provinces, it said.
With talk of further consolidation in what remains one of the most competitive mobile phone sectors in the world, this trend could continue.
In terms of the degree of tower-sharing in Cambodia, major uncertainties remain, however.
That the process of market consolidation has only just started adds to the lack of clarity over prospects for infrastructure sharing in the future.
At such an uncertain time we simply don’t know what will happen.
Still the biggest question mark remains the extent to which the government will enforce infrastructure collaboration when and if it finally passes the long-awaited telecoms law, the draft of which calls for tower sharing.
In the meantime, one mobile infrastructure company has died even before this sub-industry within the wireless sector had even started to fully function.
However, for the moment that won’t affect efforts aimed at more efficient mobile phone tower use, which in turn should help improve network coverage.
And that represents good news for both the customer and Cambodia’s skyline.
COMPAGNIE Fluviale du Mekong was the first business to offer cruises from Siem Reap to Saigon on the Mekong river aboard a converted barge in 2002. Nine years later, the company has a fleet of four ships with 10 to 24 cabins, bringing in revenue of around US$3 million each year.