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Local ISP claims licence overlap is causing losses

Last Updated on 10 January 2013 By Sarah Thust, Anne Renzenbrink and Seun Son

A motorist passes by an office of the local internet service provider Ezecom in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post At least one internet service provider in Cambodia still claims to have overlapping frequencies, which means losses for the affected company MekongNet. The companys chief executive, Sok Channda, reported that the internet service provider cant use the frequencies that were supposed to cover the WiMAX service, whereby the internet can be accessed wirelessly at long range. Besides using WiMAX, the licences also allow calls, internet access and other data services. According to Ken Chanthan, chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Association of Cambodia and CEO and chairman of the Ken Group, there is a lack of telecom regulation in Cambodia, and there isnt a clear rule concerning the issuing of licences for the frequencies. I think the private sector, especially the telecoms operators themselves should push the telecoms law, he said.

In September 2012, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications launched the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia as a separate entity. A ministry release stated: The establishment of the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia will improve the telecom sectors present management system by separating the functional roles of the Ministry of Post and Telecom. It is the first independent regulator for the telecommunications sector in Cambodia, but its opportunities to control the sector will be limited because there is no overarching law governing the telecommunications sector in Cambodia, although a draft law exists. According to a Royal Decree from March of last year, the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia will, above all, implement policy of the telecommunications sector, which shall be developed by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and urge to have an appropriate telecommunications sector structure. So far, the establishment of the Telecom Regulator of Cambodia has brought no changes, Channda told the Post. Instead, the companys complaints to the ministry remained unanswered. Ek Vandy, secretary of state of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said yesterday that the ministry has never received any complaints from internet service providers. We have never issued overlapping licences, so we never got complaints from companies, he said. If there were a problem, they would blame us, saying that we dont work. We would have dealt with it, if we would have issued overlapping licences, but we did not, Vandy told the Post yesterday. Channda, however, said: We invested $2 million in the WiMAX services, but due to the overlapping frequencies we cant run the service. That means a loss for us. We dont see any hope anymore to solve this problem. In March 2011, Emaxx Telecom reported similar problems. While it planned to have 75 WiMAX towers by the end of the year, its frequency range had already been claimed by other internet service providers. Chief Operations Officer Frank May told the Post in 2011 that Emaxxs parent company, Digital Star, had one of the three 4G licences awarded in Cambodia, adding the other two had gone to Viettel and Russian firm Altech. Whether the company has since solved the problem remained unclear yesterday because the management of Emaxx could not be reached for comment. According to Inge Olde Rikkert, internet service provider Ezecoms marketing manager, Ezecom has not been affected by the overlapping claims. This is not an issue that affects or has affected Ezecom, she said.

In 2010, seven companies affected by licensing of the 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz range wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister over the issue. The Cambodian market is shared by 40 internet service providers.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah Thust at Anne Renzenbrink at Seun Son at