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Upgrade pending for MobiTel's network

Upgrade pending for MobiTel's network

The country's largest cellular phone network, MobiTel, has been overwhelmed in recent

weeks by an unexpected increase in calls, and delays in installing new equipment.

The company saw a surge in new subscribers after prices were slashed earlier this

year, said director David Spriggs. That, combined with a higher number of phone calls,

had repeatedly pushed the company's network beyond capacity in December, particularly

in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

"The last couple of weeks we got a little ahead of our forecasts," said

Spriggs. "From the customer's point of view, there are numerous re-tries [required]

to make a call."

Part of the problem is that some of the equipment needed to increase capacity is

awaiting clearance from the government's Customs Office, said one MobiTel employee.

Spriggs denied that was the case, and officials at Customs were unable to say whether

they had the shipment, or when the company would claim it.

Spriggs said the new equipment - which includes repeating towers and software - should

be installed by December 23 to improve the service to the company's 250,000 subscribers.

He said the new equipment was part of MobiTel's latest effort to relieve the strain

on a system hit by growing demand for mobile phone services. With only around 3 percent

of the population carrying mobile phones, telecom executives see a huge potential

for growth in coming years.

Thailand's Shinawatra, the next biggest player, says it has around 100,000 of the

country's estimated 380,000 mobile phone users. Deputy general manager Jiroj Srinamamwont

said he expected the number of subscribers would double next year, and for several

years after that.

He said the capacity problems afflicting MobiTel had not hit his firm, as Shinawatra's

present capacity was still double its customer base. He said the company would keep

expanding its capacity.

Spriggs said MobiTel would invest another $2 million in a new routing device capable

of supporting 100,000 extra subscribers by February. The company was also working

to improve its infrastructure across the country.

"Increasingly we see the growth coming more from secondary cities," said

Spriggs referring to towns such as Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham. "The whole

region is booming. We're still investing next year so we can expand the service and

grow. We're quite bullish."

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