Bypassing older technologies for higher tech options, Cambodian consumers are
rapidly reshaping the Kingdom's information technology market.
only four out of every 1,000 Cambodians have access to a fixed-line phone, many
are "leapfrogging" to wireless Internet services as a cheaper, faster way to get
Cambodia's landline penetration rate is just 0.42 percent, and
lags far behind Vietnam, where 32 percent of the population have land-line
access, said Australian telecom research group Paul Budde Communications in
their 2007 Telecoms, Mobile, and Broadband in Asia report.
this is natural and not necessarily a disadvantage.
"Societies with no
legacy systems can go straight to the next level," said Kelly Hutchinson, deputy
director of external affairs for the Information and Communication Technology
Association of Cambodia (ICT-Cam). "Vietnam had a fixed-line telephone system,
Cambodia didn't, and it is now in a unique position regarding the telecoms
According to Hutchinson, Cambodia's lack of legacy
infrastructure has become a plus as the Kingdom can jump to cheaper, more
advanced, communications technology.
The Kingdom currently has 42,000
fixed-line subscribers, and Internet access has remained low and more expensive
than other countries in the region, said the Budde report.
recently Cambodia Internet was only really available through satellite," said
Javier Sola, coordinator of the Khmer Software Initiative at the Open Institute.
"Political issues have delayed things but at the end of last year [Cambodia's
fiber optic line] was finally connected to Vietnam. Fiber optic [lines] have
been on the Thai and Vietnamese border but they have not wanted to connect, [so]
we have not seen much lowering of prices. It is now happening, but very
According to Anthony Galloway, founder of the website Expat
Advisory Services, the lack of fixed-line Internet services in Cambodia means
the market has moved straight to more advanced wireless Internet
"The introduction of broadband wireless to Cambodia was cutting
edge in 2001 for the region," Galloway said. "CamGSM was the first to offer
wireless Internet with Telesurf, and now there are several Internet service
providers all offering wireless. Wireless growth will continue to stay in front
of fixed line options in Cambodia for some time to come."
argues that Cambodia will now never need to install fixed-line infrastructure,
as it costs a lot more but it is not more reliable. Problems remain for
Cambodia's ICT industry, she added.
"The major challenge now is that we
are at a maximum level on the gateway [out of Cambodia]," said Hutchinson. "This
is where the government needs to make a significant investment."
lacks a "Universal Access Fund," a common way that governments tax telecoms
companies to ensure that ICT services are provided in rural and remote areas and
essential communal infrastructure is maintained and upgraded.
see any other way of getting the funding to upgrade [Cambodia's gateway]
infrastructure [than a Universal Access Fund]," said Hutchinson. "[The current
gateway] is a bottleneck that is stopping the growth of Internet in
While many new companies are offering ICT services in Phnom
Penh, much of the country is being left behind, said Sola.
connectivity is only happening in four or five cities," said Sola. "In two
thirds of the country there is almost zero Internet usage."
Phnom Penh, increased competition has not made prices drop as fast as expected,
"Now you have companies like Angkor Net, but they are just not
strong enough to force Online [the market leader] to lower prices," he said.
"Online says it is just too expensive and they can't lower prices as it is too
small a market. But the market cannot develop if prices remain so high, you need
popular prices to develop a market."
Last year, Singapore-based Media
Ring launched Angkor Net in Cambodia. AngkorNet was the first ISP to offer
wireless broadband services, or WiMax.
WiMax is the latest wireless
technology. It can connect to the Internet at faster speeds and from longer
ranges than other wireless technology.
Consequently, Angkor Net is able
to offer broadband Internet speeds without installing expensive fixed-line
infrastructure. In theory, these savings could then be passed along to users,
boosting Internet take-up and increasing Internet penetration.
Net now has 90 percent WiMax coverage in Phnom Penh and approximately 1,000
customers, said company spokesperson Sor Phea, who added that the company
currently cannot provide services in rural areas.
"Internet costs have to
go down drastically," said Sola. "You need it in public places, in schools, you
have to prepare Cambodia's students for ICT. In ten years everything will be ICT
- you will need to know ICT to get any job."