Cambodia leapfrogged Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in wireless technology when it began to license third-generation, or 3G, network service to its mobile phone operators in 2006. Mobile users in Thailand began to reap the benefits of the high-speed mobile Internet just last year. Since Cambodia’s Internet penetration is lower than its neighbouring countries, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications’ reception to the new wireless technology is a significant step towards bridging the country’s digital divide. Expensive telephone lines and fibre-optic cables are now unnecessary, as 3G promises not only to connect those in urban areas, but in more rural areas where access to communication and information have long been hampered by a lack of infrastructure.
Licensed 3G network operators can offer advanced services, mainly mobile Internet, to their existing users with capable phones. However, the early introduction of 3G drew attention from the Kingdom’s first lady, who said the technology enables mobile users to easily send photos and video clips, allowing them to create and distribute pornography. Citing a decline in social morality as the motivating factor, the government then ordered network operators to disable a function to send and receive video clips.
However, despite attempts at regulation, Cambodians can send videos once again, and leading network operators are upgrading their lagging technology as mobile Internet becomes a highly exploitable market. The next big thing will be rich, local content that mobile users can fetch any time and anywhere. For instance, breaking news stories will become available via mobile Web and users will be able to download e-books and podcasts. We are in the midst of a transformation in the way Cambodians consume news, information and knowledge.