New research from PriMetrica’s GlobalComms has uncovered a country tipped for impressive wireless growth in 2004. Cambodia, sandwiched between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, is perhaps best known for the brutal civil war which raged for over twenty years throughout the 70s and 80s. However, since 1998, when a coalition government was elected, the country has enjoyed relative political stability, particularly since the surrender of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces at the end of that year. The new era of calm has brought an inevitable trickle of investors to the country, amongst them a number of telecoms stalwarts including Millicom International Cellular (MIC), Telekom Malaysia and Thailand’s Shinawatra.
MIC is majority shareholder in the country’s largest mobile network operator CamGSM, which was formed in March 1997 in partnership with the government-owned Royal Group. Operating under the brandname Mobitel, CamGSM offers both post and pre-paid services over its GSM-900 network. By the end of 2002 the company claimed 325,264 customers, giving it a 71% market share. By the end of September 2003 its count had risen to 413,700, an increase of 27% over the nine-month period. Its chief rival is Cambodia Shinawatra Co (Camshin), which operates a GSM-1800 network as well as providing a number of fixed line services in the capital Phnom Penh and the Siem Reap Province. At the end of September 2003 Camshin claimed in the region of 150,000 customers, an increase of 56% in nine months. The smallest player comes with the backing of Telekom Malaysia and Samart, and operates under the name Cambodia Samart Communications (Casacom). Awarded a 35 year build, transfer, operate (BTO) concession in September 1992, the company was slow to make progress in its first decade, but in the first nine months of 2003 reported a 140% hike in customers to end September with 88,000 users, 90% of whom were pre-paid. A fourth operator, SLD Telecom, is soon to enter the fray having been awarded a 30-year CDMA licence in January 2002. Backed by South Korean shareholders SK Telecom, LG Electronics and Dong-Ah Elecomm, SLD Telecom is expected launch services in 2004, initially covering the capital and main transport routes.