2007 Asia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

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Last updated: 24 Apr 2007 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 119

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

Publication Overview

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in telecommunications, broadcasting and pay TV markets in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam. Subjects covered include:

  • Key Statistics
  • Market and Industry Overviews
  • Regulatory Environment
  • Major Players (fixed and mobile)
  • Infrastructure
  • Mobile Voice and Data Markets
  • Internet, VoIP, IPTV
  • Broadband (FttH, DSL, cable TV, wireless)
  • Convergence and Digital Media

Executive Summary

This Annual Publication: Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband in Asia – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam profiles three countries which once made up the French colonial entity known as Indochina. These neighbouring countries – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – are still in relatively early stages of their telecommunications development with expanding national infrastructure and growing subscriber bases across all market segments.

Continuing to shun fixed-line services, Cambodia’s healthy mobile market has passed the 1.5 million subscriber milestone and was continuing to grow at an annual rate of around 35% coming into 2007. Fixed-line services were languishing at around 42,000, with no sign of a revival in interest in this segment of the market. Surprisingly, given the apparent interest in communications, Internet penetration has remained particularly low, with the services on offer being notably expensive in comparison to other countries in the region. As the country’s efforts are directed towards strengthening its telecommunications infrastructure, Cambodia must continue to address its political problems and build its economy. Now that the country has entered a period of relative political stability, an increased effort is required to put the necessary administrative institutions and regulations in place. The telecom sector remains in need of serious regulatory reform. The good news is that foreign investor confidence appears to have returned and there are many positive signs that the economy is strengthening in a sustained manner.

After years of economic struggle, Laos has finally been reporting positive news on this front. With a number of substantial hydro-electric and mining projects now a reality, the country is at last moving forward in a confident fashion. Attention is now turning to building its national infrastructure, including telecommunications. Laos still only had a fixed line teledensity of less than two telephones per 100 people by early 2007. More foreign investment is needed to boost the telecoms sector and, most importantly, given that it is a relatively small market, the government must be judicious in deciding and licensing how this investment happens. The Lao Telecom joint venture formed by the government with the Thai company, Shinawatra, in 1996 was a wasted opportunity. Lao Telecom allowed the five year period of market exclusivity to pass without any serious attention to infrastructure building. When the market was opened up to competition in 2002, foreign capital finally started to flow into the sector, although not as much as the government would have liked. The mobile phone market took off in early 2003, with the number of subscribers increasing sevenfold in just 2 years. The Lao telecom sector still has many issues to address. Despite the recent rapid opening up of the market, the regulatory progress continues to lag behind development and has the potential to derail the progress already made if reform is not speeded up.

After a period in which foreign investors appeared to be avoiding Vietnam’s telecom sector, the country has become the target for a fresh new round of investor interest. This follows a period in which the government seemed content to ‘go it alone’. During this time, the introduction of a limited level of competition into the telecoms market, combined with a generally improved economic climate, saw some healthy growth in the sector. More recently the move to allow an increase level of ‘equitisation’ (the Vietnamese government’s word for ‘privatisation’) has sent a clear message to investors that the rules are changing in a positive way. The investment mood has been further boosted with Vietnam finally winning accession to the World Trade Organization, a step that was formally confirmed in early 2007. This adds to the already positive climate for the telecom sector expansion. As well as strong growth in its mobile sector, there has been equally strong – and some might say, surprising - growth in the country’s fixed line subscriber base. Fixed-line services have been continuing to expand at an annual rate of 100%; fixed teledensity has passed 32%. At the same time, the government’s reticence about the Internet has not stopped this segment of the market gaining a strong foothold. Internet user penetration was running at a healthy 18% in early 2007. Increased foreign investment remains the key to overall expansion. It is still not totally clear what form the government’s involvement in the telecom sector will take.

Key highlights

  • Vietnam’s mobile market had passed the 16 million subscriber mark coming into 2007. The annual growth rate in this market segment was running at around 85% and looked set to continue.
  • The 2006 year saw a remarkable surge in Vietnam’s broadband Internet market with subscriber growth running at an annual rate of almost 200%. Interest in broadband services was finally picking up; but broadband penetration remains low (2% of households) we can expect continuing strong growth in this market segment.
  • Vietnam received a boost to its economy generally and the telecom sector in particular with its accession to the WTO in early 2007.
  • In Cambodia, mobile services continue to dominate the local market; in what is still a relatively poor country, (GDP per capita of US$430 in 2006), more than 1.5 million people subscribe to a mobile service. The market is continuing to expand at around 40% per annum.
  • According to ministry figures, mobile subscribers in Laos passed the one million mark in December 2006. Recent growth in mobile has been rapid in this country of only 6 million people and the market looked set to continue to expand at an annual rate of about 40% in 2007/08.
  • All three countries are making some progress with regulatory change and structural reform within their respective telecom sectors. To the outside observer, however, progress is often painfully slow. This can cause serious concern among those companies wishing to invest.

Mobile penetration and annual growth - 2007

Country Penetration Annual growth
Cambodia 15% 37%
Laos 21% 40%
Vietnam 30% 60%
Source: BuddeComm

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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