With A ‘Lot At Stake,’ Cambodia Inches Towards 5G Deployment


By Catherine Sbeglia

Operators in Cambodia have been proclaiming that they are prepared to launch commercial 5G services since last year but have been left waiting on government action. However, the Minister of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) Tram Iv Tek spoke publicly this past February to both commend one of Cambodia’s most prominent operators Cellcard (CamGSM) and to address the importance of getting 5G off the ground in the country.

“With the impending rollout of 5G, there is a lot at stake for Cambodia as a nation, for our economy, our industries, and our people,” stated Tek, adding that globally, 5G is expected to increase operator revenues by about 36 per cent by 2026.

“For Cambodia to take a share in that value and growth, our nation must act quickly,” he continued.

According to Cellcard Chairman Kith Meng, the involvement of the ministry shows a real commitment to support the rollout of 5G technology.

Many cite Cambodia’s 21.4 million mobile connections in Q1 2020 as an indication that the country has strong potential in 5G adoption of up to 1.6 million connections by 2025.

Marketing and Business Development Country Manager Vatanak Sok commented, “Given the continued growth in the number of smartphone connection in the Kingdom of Cambodia over the past decade, 5G connection inevitably plays an important role in shaping subscribers’ consumption behavior towards speed, accessibility and flexibility.”

With the arrival of 5G mobile network in Cambodia, experts are predicting a significant surge in digital content subscriptions such as video streaming and gaming content.

Last year, the Cambodian government signed an agreement with Huawei Technologies in late April, allowing Huawei help the country build its 5G network—despite global suspicion aimed at the vendor, sparked initially by the US government, which recently moved to cut off the Chinese equipment provider from chip suppliers.

Smart Axiata

Smart Axiata (Axiata), Cambodia’s biggest operator, began 5G trials nearly a year ago in the capital Phnom Penh ,using a mobile device from Huawei. While Axiata completed the trials in November 2019, the operator is awaiting approval from the MPTC to roll out a network.

Following the trial, Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt stated that 5G services could start “very soon,” a claim that ultimately did not bear fruit. However, the country is still making significant progress towards the next generation of cellular technology, despite sets backs including lagging government approval and the Coronavirus.

Cellcard (CamGSM)

Last November, Cellcard achieved a speed of has 1.6 Gbps on what it claimed to be the first “real” 5G trials conducted in Cambodia. By “real” the company meant that the site of the trial was an end-to-end 5G site from a 5G radio to a 5G core network. Further, the operator said that the site can accommodate network slicing for dedicated use cases.

Similar to Axiata, at the time of its trials, Cellcard had hopes for launching its 5G network in early 2020. While that did not happen, the operator has already identified key locations for its initial launch, including Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, both in the country’s capitol city.

From 2017 to 2019, data traffic over Cellcard’s network grew 1000 per cent and the average daily usage rose from 200MB to 600MB, indicating the country’s direction towards a more connected ecosystem.

Metfone, part of Viettel Group

Like Smart Axiata, Metfone opted to work with Huawei in August 2019 for its 5G network build-out, even though its Vietnamese parent company Viettel Group has refused to do the same, confirmed by Bloomberg News during an interview in Hanoi with Viettel CEO Le Dang Dung who said the firm will not work with Huawei for its 5G network in Vietnam.

Dung went on to say that the company will deploy Ericsson AB’s equipment in Hanoi and Nokia Oyj’s technology in Ho Chi Minh City, and that it will use 5G chipsets from Qualcomm and another unnamed U.S. company.

A month later, Metfone opened a 5G exhibition booth in Cambodia. In the same announcement, the operator claimed to have completed all requirements to deploy 5G only a month after receiving its 5G license. Beyond 5G, the company’s statement also highlighted the importance of “Cloud Computing Infrastructure, IoT, and other Digital services.”

“Metfone aims to bring out its nationwide coverage and reasonable price to all people in Cambodia with the purposes of making Cambodia to keep up and be at top of the world telecommunications and ICT fields,” read the statement. https://www.rcrwireless.com

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