“The future is definitely data.”
These are the words of Smart CEO Thomas Hundt as he pledges to continue to plough money into developing the mobile operating giant’s data network. “Our investments are focussed into the data networks, in 2013 we invest more than $50 million into 2G and 3G,” he adds as he reveals plans to launch 4G in the near future.
With more than 40% of mobile phones being bought in Cambodia in the first six months of 2013 being smart phones and the trend looking set to continue well into the future, this is an area Hundt knows is in strong demand.
“We can see the market demanding more and more data services,” he says. “Cambodia is still behind the global average but it’s showing a clear direction that people want to get on the Internet and, for the vast majority, a mobile phone is the only way. On the one hand this is a great opportunity but requires great investment into the networks.”
Already Smart has developed a 3.75G network, featuring DC-HSPA and HSPA+, running at speeds of up to 42 megabits per second. And a total of 95% of the country’s population is covered with a minimum of 2G, with more than 30% receiving 3G – a figure that is expected to double by the end of the year.
“Demand is sky-rocketing,” Hundt comments. “Customers are browsing and talking a lot more. To cater for this we need to invest in coverage and capacity so there’s still room for network deployment. Last year, price was the main driver but network quality is becoming more important.”
In a country with a population of 15 million, it is estimated there are between nine and 10 million people actively using mobile phones at present. The actual number of SIM cards registered is much more but it is believed many people own two or three SIMs.
At one point, there were nine operators serving the country – a figure that has been slashed to five after several moves including Hello merging with Smart earlier this year and the bankruptcy of Mfone.
“This has changed the market environment quite drastically,” Hundt says. “Initially the market was quite overcrowded but this has changed the market for the better by cutting down on the number of players.”
Although, he adds, the market is still fairly crowded and competitive, there remains room for more consolidation. “I believe in the long-term there will be a maximum of three to four players here who will sustain and invest into the future,” he predicts.
For more information on Smart, visit www.smart.com.kh.