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Plans for satellite in the works yet again

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Im Vutha, director of the regulation and dispute unit at the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia, talks to the Post last year from his office in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Plans for satellite in the works yet again

One of Cambodia’s largest conglomerates is reviving plans for the Kingdom’s first communications satellite, with hopes of launching by 2021 with assistance from China.

Im Vutha, spokesman for the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia, said tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group will spend a year conducting a feasibility study before beginning work on the satellite. Royal Group has partnered with state-owned China Great Wall Industry Corporation, which helped Laos launch its first satellite in 2015.

“It will take a lot of time – seven years by international standards,” Vutha said. “But this company said they may take three years only because they have experience with Laos already.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen has pushed for a Cambodian-owned satellite for years. Royal Blue Skies, a subsidiary of Royal Group, received a concession from the government to launch Cambodia’s first satellite in 2011, but the project never took off.

In 2015, the premier announced a plan to launch a satellite surveillance system to monitor the country’s borders. Last year, he again proposed a Cambodia-owned satellite to deliver high-speed internet.

Vutha said the government wants to invest in satellites as an alternative to a fibre-optic cable to increase broadband penetration in urban and rural areas of the Kingdom.

However, satellites “can have other purposes, like for the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Land Management, Ministry of Interior, and for security and defence”, he said.

Vutha said the costs had yet to be finalised or approved, but he estimated them to reach $150 million.

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