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4G speeds drop as customer numbers increase

Access to 4G mobile networks has steadily grown in Cambodia over the past six months, but the country’s telecommunications companies continue to struggle with maintaining 4G speeds as their networks grow

Cambodian men use their smartphones at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Photo: Kith Serey / EPA-EFE

Cambodia’s network availability is greater than ever before, but its download speeds have dropped by up to 16.5 megabits per second in the past six months, according to a recent analysis conducted by Open Signal, a mobile analytics company.
“We often find this trend in countries as its 4G market matures,” explained Kevin Fitchard lead analyst at Open Signal. “As operators sign up more 4G customers, those customers start competing for the network’s capacity. That causes average speeds to drop.”
In a study conducted between April and June of this year, Open Signal collected more than 600 million measurements from 50,000 devices to determine mobile network responsiveness, availability, and download and upload speeds across Cambodia.
Cambodia’s two leading telco operators, CamGSM’s Cellcard and Smart Axiata, have expanded the reach of their LTE services, with Smart standing out as a leader in network expansion. While Cellcard continues to lead the way in overall download and upload speeds, however, average speeds have continued to fall as higher numbers of customers overload the networks.
Local telcos are already struggling to address this issue, and are likely to continue to strike a balance between growing their networks and maintaining the quality of their services in the future, according to the Open Signal report.
“We’re already seeing Cambodian operators address the capacity issue with new LTE-Advanced upgrades and other network enhancements,” stated the report.
In comparison to other countries in the region, Cambodia’s mobile availability score of 70% puts the Kingdom in the same league as Indonesia and Vietnam.  Southeast Asia’s leader in terms of mobile network availability remains Thailand, which Open Signal awarded a 4G availability score of 85%, while Myanmar and the Philippines exist at the opposite end of the spectrum with far more limited networks.
“We definitely expect to see solid growth in 4G availability in Cambodia as well as in the rest of the region, though we may also see 4G speeds continue to drop,” Fitchard said. “That’s been the general trend in Southeast Asia: operators have focused on spreading access to LTE before they start focusing on 4G speed.”

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