Companies planning to offer wireless ‘WiMAX’ internet in the Kingdom are exploring alternate business models and writing off investments, after a long-running dispute over frequency allocation put their licences in doubt.
In January, seven leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen to lodge a complaint regarding the allocation of a specific frequency range – which had already been granted to the ISPs for WiMAX use.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications had also issued the 2.5GHz to 2.7 GHz frequency range to a firm called Star Digital TV – putting ISPs’ existing permits in doubt.
Despite talks, ISPs have told the Post that the issue has yet to be resolved and firms are now counting the cost of the furore.
Sok Channda, CEO of Cambodia Data Communications, parent company to both Mekong Net and Angkor Net ISP, said it was still not cleared to operate WiMAX technology, despite meeting with the Ministry on several occasions.
“It really affected our business,” she said. “We had already invested.”
She estimated the inability to launch WiMAX could cost them in excess of US$1 million, and added the firm had already signed a 10-year partnership to bring the technology to the Kingdom.
The firm had also considered a separate partnership to introduce Voice over Internet Protocol calls using WiMAX, she said, but it was now looking at different ways to provide internet connections to households.
Hy Borin, system administrator at Wicam ISP, said the dispute had lasted for over a year, and that a solution had not been found.
Wicam – which also signed the letter to the prime minister – claims to have spent some $30,000 preparing WiMAX stations, but now plans to reinvest in fibre cables to deliver internet the “last mile” to homes.
As negotiations with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications proved fruitless at resolving the dispute, he said there may never be WiMAX in Cambodia.
Hyam Bolande, vice president at Chuan Wei – another affected firm – declined to comment directly on the issue, but said Cambodia’s economic and social development needs more affordable broadband in the hands of more people.
“The only way that’s going to happen in this country on a mass level is wireless [internet],” he said.
The other companies that saw their WiMAX licences affected included Wireless IP, Angkor Data Communication Group, CityLink, Craig Wireless Systems, Global Telecom, and Sotelco.
The letter sent to the prime minister said that reissuing the licences sent “the investment community, both current and potential, the wrong message about investment protection and rule of law in Cambodia”.
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Sok Khun declined to comment on the issue, as did representatives of Star Digital TV. ADDITIONAL REPORTING SEN DAVID