Why do you feel Cambodia is a viable market for 5G services?
Cambodia is a ‘mobile-first’ country with users who consume very high volumes of data. In particular, users in urban areas are always demanding more and faster data. They are ready for the enhanced Mobile Broadband service, which is what 5G is all about.
The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has taken a cautious approach in creating the legislation allowing for 5G deployment. Given the massive investment of capital and infrastructure that is necessary for deployment, do you feel this is a good strategy?
Unfortunately, Cambodia lost the opportunity to become one of the first countries in ASEAN to launch 5G. Neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam have identified 5G as a competitive advantage for their respective economies and have already started releasing primary spectrum bands. The 5G policy framework by the RGC should be crafted in a way that stimulates innovation and incentivizes investments and re-investments into superior digital infrastructure. The government should also think holistically about the total cost of doing business for the telecom operators in the Kingdom of Cambodia. We believe the current levels of regulatory fees, levies, and other taxes which the telecom operators in the Kingdom are subject to are too high and rather discourage investments.
But, if all stakeholders put full focus on it right now, Cambodia could become a 5G territory by mid-2021 – we very much hope so.
Is Smart currently working with the Royal Government to move forward the rollout of 5G?
At the moment, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is drafting the Sub-Decree on Radio Frequency Spectrum Management. We are part of the process, joining the consultation and sharing our concerns, comments, expertise and input on various technical matters, regulatory best practices, economic concepts and strategies to support and accelerate the deployment of 5G in Cambodia.
Despite the lag between regulators and the private sector, has Smart continued its 5G development? What does this progress look like?
At the moment, Smart’s 5G deployment is in a holding pattern since the Royal Government of Cambodia has not yet released the necessary spectrum to proceed. Technically, Smart is ready and well prepared. Within 6 months of receiving the green light from the RGC, Smart will be able to offer 5G commercial service to consumers.
Besides the legislative process, what are the greatest challenges facing 5G in Cambodia?
Rolling out and commercializing 5G in Cambodia will be a major undertaking which requires all stakeholders to progressively work towards the same objective. While an investment-friendly approach should be adopted by the RGC, a number of infrastructure-related challenges must be tackled in parallel. Classifying telecom services and infrastructure as public services is of the utmost importance.
What is your long-term vision for 5G in Cambodia and what will this look like for Smart?
5G has enormous potential which can’t be fully understood yet. It will enable the digital transformation of society, the economy, the way we work, live, play… 5G will enable Cambodia to set forth its transformation into the digital age. We strongly believe that technology, supported by 4G and 5G connectivity, will allow mankind to solve many of the problems we face globally and, particularly, in Cambodia.
This article was first published in Globe Media Asia’s Focus Cambodia 2021-22 magazine.