THE row over government distribution of overlapping frequency licences in the telecoms industry escalated Thursday when a letter of complaint, signed by top officials from seven leading businesses, was delivered to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The document, passed to the premier through his Cabinet, formally lodged concerns about the way the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication awards frequency licences in the sector and was endorsed by CEOs of some of the Kingdom’s largest telecommunications companies.
On Wednesday, the Post reported that widespread disaffection was spreading through the business community after a TV company was licensed to broadcast on a frequency already used by nine Internet service providers.
Without a valid licence, companies are unable to provide services that use radio frequency, such as the Internet or mobile-phone networks, to the public.
According to the letter, a permit is the “foundation stone” for businesses on which tens of millions of US dollars’ worth of telecoms infrastructure is built.
An industry insider, who requested anonymity, explained that if multiple companies were to use the same frequency, “no telecommunications or broadcast network could function with any level of quality. Massive signal interference would make consumers so disgusted, they’d just give up.”
It's unprecedented for operators to join together and voice collectively their concerns in this way."
The letter – which has been seen by the Post – demands that providers’ existing licences be honoured and discusses the ramifications of multiple licensing upon future investment in the Kingdom. It was sent after talks between companies and the ministry failed to reach a resolution.
Recently awarded licences send “the investment community, both current and potential, the wrong message about investment protection and rule of law in Cambodia”, the letter reads in part.
“Perceptions that licences issued by a government ministry such as MPTC are valueless cannot be allowed to spread.”
The letter continues: “It would hurt investment in the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) that Cambodia needs.”
The dispatch added that “the sweeping nature” of the new permit – awarded to company Star Digital TV for the large 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz of spectrum – immediately impacts on businesses and the 2,000 subscribers who use the new WiMAX wireless Internet services provided by the ISPs.
The letter asks Hun Sen to provide assurances to all holders of existing radio frequency licences that their bandwidth will not be taken away or reallocated to other groups.
The letter was signed by Sreang Tito, president and CEO of Angkor Data Communication Group; Sok Channda, CEO and president of Cambodia Data Communication Co Ltd; Hyam Bolande, vice president of Chuan Wei; Ngeth Chanthol, owner of Wicam; Khan Angkeabot, CEO of Wireless IP; Chris Maloy, CEO of AZ Communication Group; and Paul Blanche Horgan, CEO of Ezecom.
Representatives from Ezecom and AZ Communications signed the letter despite not being directly affected by multiple licensing, as a sign of industry solidarity, an industry expert said.
An official with one affected licence holder, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote via email: “It’s unprecedented for operators to join together and voice collectively their concerns in this way, and it really bespeaks the gravity of the situation.”
When approached by the Post on Thursday night, Telecommunications Ministry Director General Moa Chakrya said he had no knowledge of the letter and declined to comment about the issuing of the licence to Star Digital TV.
An assistant to the prime minister did not answer calls on Thursday, and the Post was told Wednesday that the manager of Digital Star TV was travelling until next week.