Cambodia - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

Executive summary

Cambodia’s telecom sector continues to grow, with the new industry regulator now playing a role

Cambodia’s efforts to expand and upgrade its telecom infrastructure have been bearing fruit. This is despite its status as a least developed country and remaining one of the poorer countries in Southeast Asia. Cambodia has largely by-passed rebuilding the fixed-line market and quickly launched into alternative technologies, jump-starting its telecommunications infrastructure with digital technology. Not surprisingly, mobile services completely overwhelmed the market, at least initially. The roll-out of a variety of different network technologies has been more the pattern of late.

The Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications (MPTC) officially launched the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) in 2012. The move effectively transferred the regulatory role of the MPTC to the TRC, making the new authority responsible for the key areas of spectrum allocation and the regulation of pricing, among others. By 2015 the TRC was already playing a key role in the local telecom industry; there remained a significant range of regulatory and market issues still to be addressed, however.

In early 2015 the Cambodian and Chinese authorities signed a cooperation agreement regarding issues on telecoms and information and communications technology (ICT). While in late 2015 Cambodia’s Council of Ministers approved a new draft telecommunications law, which is aimed at enhancing the regulation of the sector and improving service quality.

In recent years there have been between eight and ten mobile operators vigorously competing with each other in a crowded market segment that continued to grow at a healthy annual rate. By the end of 2015, there were over 25 million mobile subscribers.

The mobile market had started to go through some form of rationalisation by 2011. By that stage there were nine licensed operators. The number of operators dropped to eight in that year when the merger of two of the operators was approved by the authorities. Then, after a great deal of activity on this front in 2012, two major changes took place: the closure of financially struggling Mfone finally occurred in early 2013; and later that year Hello Axiata merged with Smart/Latelz to form a refreshed Smart Mobile. Importantly, the new, combined Smart emerged as the second largest of mobile operators, not far behind the market leader Viettel’s Metfone. By 2015 there were six mobile operators, but three of these only had small subscriber numbers. In fact, the three major operators were claiming around 95% of the total subscriber base.

The limited fixed-line telephony growth that had come about in Cambodia earlier on had mainly been through investment under foreign assistance plans, focusing on the capital Phnom Penh. Subsequently, geographical coverage did not increase significantly for a decade or more.

The expansion of the internet in Cambodia has been largely overshadowed by the strong focus on mobile services. Internet take-up rates remained disconcertingly low for many years, with the country claiming one of the lowest internet penetrations in the region. The limited fixed-line infrastructure had been a major inhibiting factor in the roll-out of both dial-up and DSL internet services. The market started to shift in 2007 when wireless broadband services began to appear, offering an effective alternative fixed access service to DSL. By 2015, however, fixed broadband internet penetration remained extremely low. By contrast, mobile broadband was expanding rapidly at the same time boosting online activity generally; as with telephony, mobile services were again clearly ‘filling the gap.’

In early 2015 SEATEL Cambodia announced plans to invest a total of US$500 million in the rollout and operation of a 4G network in Cambodia over the next few years.

Key Developments:

  • Mobile penetration had reached 167% by end-2015;
  • The number of mobile operators falling from nine in 2011 to just three major players by 2015;
  • Hello Axiata and Smart Mobile merged to form a refreshed Smart Mobile, presenting a serious challenger to Viettel’s Metfone;
  • Smart Axiata had expanded its 4G LTE network to all 25 provinces of the country.
  • By 2015a teledensity of only 2.8% was reported;
  • The internet segment had also been struggling for some time;
  • The rapid expansion of mobile broadband access continues to breath life into this market segment;
  • There were around 2.3 million mobile broadband subscribers by 2015;
  • SEATEL Cambodia announced plans to invest a total of US$500 million in the rollout and operation of a 4G network
  • Viettel acquired a 50 percent stake in Sotelco, parent company of Beeline Cambodia.
  • Alcatel-Lucent and Chuan Wei signed an agreement to expand mobile broadband connectivity.

Cambodia - key telecom parameters – 2012 - 2015

Category 2012 2013 2015
Fixed-line services:
Total No. of subscribers 584,000 420,900 435,000
Internet services:
Total No. of fixed broadband subscribers 30,000 32,600 50,000
Mobile services:
Total No. of subscribers 19.1 million 20.3 million 25.6 million

(Source: BuddeComm)

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
  • 3. Country Overview
    • 3.1 Background
    • 3.2 Economy
  • 4. Telecommunications market
    • 4.1 Overview of Cambodia’s telecom market
  • 5. Regulatory environment
    • 5.1 Regulatory authority
      • 5.1.1 Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications (MPTC)
      • 5.1.2 Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC)
      • 5.1.3 Draft law tabled by MPTC
      • 5.1.4 Huawei – government business partner
    • 5.2 Regulatory developments
      • 5.2.1 New Draft Telecommunications Law
      • 5.2.2 SIM Registration
      • 5.2.3 Agreement with Chinese Government
      • 5.2.4 VoIP
      • 5.2.5 Dispute: Smart Axiata v. CadComms
      • 5.2.6 Inactive licences
      • 5.2.7 National broadband policy
      • 5.2.8 3G service restrictions
  • 6. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 6.1 National telecom network
    • 6.2 Optical fibre networks
    • 6.3 Mobile towers
    • 6.4 Fixed-line operators
      • 6.4.1 Telecom Cambodia
      • 6.4.2 Viettel
      • 6.4.3 Digi
    • 6.5 International infrastructure
      • 6.5.1 Greater Mekong Subregion Information Superhighway (GMS-IS)
      • 6.5.2 Cambodian-Vietnamese Super Highway Telecoms Network
      • 6.5.3 Proposed submarine cable
  • 7. Internet and the broadband market
    • 7.1 Overview
    • 7.2 Background
    • 7.3 Cloud Computing
    • 7.4 Internet statistics
    • 7.5 Forecasts – Broadband services – 2015; 2020
    • 7.6 WiMAX
      • 7.6.1 Overview
      • 7.6.2 Digital Star
    • 7.7 Long term evolution (LTE) network
      • 7.7.1 Digital Star
      • 7.7.2 Southeast Asia Telecommunications
      • 7.7.3 Smart Axiata
      • 7.7.4 Seatel
    • 7.8 AngkorNet
  • 8. Mobile communications
    • 8.1 Overview of Cambodia’s mobile market
    • 8.2 Mobile statistics
    • 8.3 Forecasts – mobile services – 2015; 2020
  • 9. Major mobile operators
    • 9.1 MobiTel (CamGSM)
      • 9.1.1 Overview
      • 9.1.2 Statistics
    • 9.2 Mfone (CamShin)
      • 9.2.1 Overview
      • 9.2.2 Statistics
      • 9.2.3 Uncertainty followed by Bankruptcy
    • 9.3 Smart Axiata (formerly Hello Axiata)
    • 9.4 AZ Communications
    • 9.5 Metfone (Viettel)
    • 9.6 CadComms (QB)
    • 9.7 GT-Tell (Excell)
    • 9.8 Smart Mobile (Latelz)
    • 9.9 Applifone (Star Cell)
    • 9.10 Beeline Cambodia (Sotelco)
    • 9.11 CooTel (Xinwei)
  • 10. Cambodia’s broadcasting market
    • 10.1 Overview
    • 10.2 Cable TV
    • 10.3 Satellite TV
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Country statistics Cambodia – 2015
  • Table 2 – Telephone network statistics – 2015
  • Table 3 – Internet user statistics – 2015
  • Table 4 – Mobile statistics – 2015
  • Table 5 – National telecommunications authority
  • Table 6 – Cambodia’s GDP real growth rate – 2006 - 2015
  • Table 7 – Fixed lines in service and penetration – 1995 - 2015
  • Table 8 – Forecast fixed-line growth – 2015; 2020
  • Table 9 – Internet users, annual change and penetration – 1997 - 2015
  • Table 10 – Fixed internet subscribers – 1999 - 2015
  • Table 11 – Internet household penetration – 2008 - 2015
  • Table 12 – Fixed broadband subscribers – 2005 - 2015
  • Table 13 – Mobile broadband subscribers – 2010 - 2015
  • Table 14 – Total international internet bandwidth – 1999 - 2015
  • Table 15 – Forecast fixed broadband subscriber growth – 2015; 2020
  • Table 16 – Mobile subscribers, annual growth and penetration – 1993 - 2015
  • Table 17 – Mobile Operators and Systems
  • Table 18 – Mobile subscribers and market share by operator – 2013
  • Table 19 – Mobile services sector estimated ARPU – 1998 - 2012
  • Table 20 – Forecast mobile subscriber growth – 2015; 2020
  • Table 21 –MobiTel (CamGSM) mobile subscribers – 1998 - 2013
  • Table 22 – MobiTel: 3G subscribers – 2006 - 2013
  • Table 23 – Historical - Mfone (CamShin) mobile subscribers – 1998 - 2012
  • Table 24 – Mfone 3G subscribers – 2012 - 2013
  • Table 25 – Smart Axiata: mobile subscribers – 1998 - 2013
  • Table 26 – Smart Axiata: 3G subscribers – 2012 - 2013
  • Table 27 –Metfone (Viettel) mobile subscribers – 2009 - 2013
  • Table 28 – Cadcomms (QB) mobile (3G) subscribers – 2008 - 2013
  • Table 29 – Historical - Smart Mobile subscribers – 2011 - 2012
  • Table 30 – Smart Mobile (Latelz): 3G subscribers – 2012 - 2013
  • Table 31 – Historical - Applifone (Star Cell) subscribers – 2008 - 2009
  • Table 32 – Beeline Cambodia subscribers – 2009 - 2013
  • Table 33 – Beeline Cambodia’s ARPU – 2011 - 2013
  • Table 34 – Key broadcasting statistics – 2013
  • Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service and penetration – 2006-2015
  • Chart 2 - Internet users and annual change - 2006-2015
  • Chart 3- Mobile market – subscribers and penetration – 2005 - 2015

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Telecoms Infrastructure

Number of pages 43

Status Current

Last updated 16 Dec 2015

Analyst: Peter Evans

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