A proposed merger of Cambodian cellco Applifone, which operates under the Star-Cell banner and is 100% owned by TeliaSonera Asia Holding, with rival Latelz Co and its Smart Mobile brand has been given the green light by local authorities, the Phnom Penh Post reports. The move has reduced the number of players in the crowded Cambodian wireless market from nine to eight. The enlarged operation will offer services under the Smart Mobile brand and will become a strong operator in the market with more than 850,000 mobile subscribers. It will be 75%-owned by Smart’s Cyprus-based owners, with TeliaSonera Asia Holding controlling the remaining 25% of the new company. Existing Star-Cell outlets and dealers will be rebranded by March this year. ‘There is a competitive advantage for those who are leading the market, including Smart Mobile,’ commented Smart’s CEO Thomas Hundt at a conference announcing the merger, adding: ‘Those who cannot leverage on the economy of scale, they will have more difficulty to be successful, to be profitable.’ Commenting on the decision to merge the two firms, Hundt stated: ‘At the end of the day, it was a pure [business] decision based on the facts and based on the value for the investors here in Cambodia.’ Smart plans to expand network coverage to the country’s 24 provinces by the first half of 2011, as well as launch 3G services in the largest cities.