Mr Andrey Sheen, CEO of Digi Internet Cambodia, says the potential scope and scale of expansion in the Cambodian ISP and telecommunications industry is huge.
Now, just 6% of the Cambodian population are online and the vast majority of users connect to mobile data roaming networks. There are a small percentage of Cambodian internet subscribers that use fibre optic broadband services at their home or business, over two thirds of which are located in Phnom Penh.
However, this is not due to a lack of availability. Broadband fibre optic connections are well established in Cambodia, especially in the Phnom Penh business sphere, easily offering unlimited data usage and high speeds if desired. Sheen notes that most users are only operating from a smartphone or similar devices, and using relatively low-traffic applications. Thus, most users currently do not demand unlimited data roaming and only a very limited number of Cambodian’s can realistically afford a residential fibre connection.
While currently dominated by the 3G network, the Cambodian mobile network is sufficient to support a change to 4G LTE; and this is a change the nation is currently seeing. The speed is noticeably faster on 4G LTE than the previous 3G standard but still far slower than a cable connection. Wireless operators are unable to provide pure unlimited traffic usage to its users, still reserving this benefit for cable users.
Cambodia currently connects to the internet via its neighbours. This means broadband internet is more expensive and somewhat slower than it could be if Cambodia had its own high-capacity, direct to international-port, submarine cable. However, this project, currently in planning, will not influence the Cambodia ISP market for some time.
Based on Digi’s sizable experience in the Kazakhstan, Russian and European telecommunications’ markets, Sheen suggests that Cambodian ISP demand will experience a shift toward broadband, of which Digi is currently the market’s number one residential provider. As internet users increase overall, mobile network use will continue to grow. However, this sector’s rate of growth shall decline somewhat as more and more users begin to use both mobile networks and some home/business broadband, dividing their traffic between the two. As use of mobile networks increase, including higher traffic usage, such as downloads, and multiple device connections, so shall the relative cost of these connections increase. This means it is only natural for these consumers to look to broadband where speeds are better and data can be unlimited as well as shared between several house or business members, saving costs in the long term.
Not only will the scale of internet use change in Cambodia’s near future, so too will the scope. Cambodia is presently seeing the birth of the internet services age.
As Cambodian’s increase their use of the internet, domestic internet sites offering internet based utilities relevant to Cambodians are now emerging. Currently, 90% of all internet use in Cambodia is spent accessing internationally hosted sites. However, this is changing as Cambodian ISP providers and private companies are increasingly offering internet utilities and services hosted on a domestic server. Some examples include online banking services such as “Pay&Go”, access to foreign/domestic media in Khmer language, e-learning platforms and online shopping and delivery services. The market is fit for a boom in domestic internet utilities such as this.
“Digi World” is one such design which offers entirely internet-based services to subscribers on a local Cambodian server. Digi World hosts and adapts foreign sites to provide Khmer language news and entertainment, offers file exchange hubs, online games and various other services tailored to local users. On the local server, these sites are safer, faster and personalised to Cambodian needs.
Domestic internet services such as these are an entirely new shift in Cambodian ISP history which some businesses shall be slow in making. Sheen suggests, however, given the boom in internet-based service industries in other emerging Asian and European markets, it will be difficult for Cambodian businesses to ignore this potential for much longer.