VOIP In Cambodia, A Communications Revolution

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Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a technology most commonly used to deliver voice communication over the internet. In lay terms, it allows the user to hold voice conversations with another person using the internet as the medium, rather than relying on a telephone network.

Also known as internet telephone or broadband telephony, some of the most emblematic and successful applications associated with the technology include Skype, LINE, Viber and WhatsApp.

VoIP-based applications are thriving here in the Kingdom, a fact that comes as no surprise, particularly given how tech savvy Cambodia’s Generation Y has become. The country has never had strong landline penetration, and this has undoubtedly aided the spread of the technology. “VoIP services have proved very popular in Cambodia, as they allow for the appearance of a more ‘physical’ presence for businesses, in the absence of the availability of traditional copper wire services,” says James Happell, Technology for Development Manager at People in Need.

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James Happell, People in Need.

Biggest players in the Kingdom

WhatsApp, WeChat and even Facebook now offer voice services to their customers, expanding the list of VoIP services used in Cambodia and joining more traditional VoIP applications such as Skype, Viber, Google Hangouts and Apple’s FaceTime. “At the consumer level, these applications are very popular,” reveals Happell.

Laszlo Barta, Chief Commercial Officer at Cellcard, acknowledges that Facebook is the most popular app in Cambodia. “99 percent of all internet users have a Facebook account,” he says. According to Barta, this makes the Facebook messenger app, now capable of supporting video calls, one of the most used applications in Cambodia. LINE, with its video call feature, is also growing in popularity, especially among the young.

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Laszlo Barta, Cellcard

A changing telecommunications landscape

As people increasingly take to the internet to communicate, traditional calling methods that rely on telephone networks become less attractive, eating up on the bottom line of traditional telcos that haven’t broadened their offerings to function as internet service providers (ISPs). “The internet in general poses a threat to traditional telecommunications businesses,” says Cellcard’s Barta. “Telecommunications companies must evolve from their traditional services to a more digital, internet-based offer to survive.”

Indeed, according to research and analytics firm Ovum, between 2012 and 2018 the global telecommunications industry will lose a combined $386 billion from consumers switching to internet-based voice applications such as Skype and Lync. “The primary reason business or consumers are making the switch is availability and price,” explains Happell. The cost of a VoIP call on Skype from Cambodia to the US is around 2 cents per minute, far cheaper than any landline service available, he says.

In Cambodia the growth and spread of VoIP services might not have had such a disruptive effect for the telecommunications sector as in more established telecommunications markets, says Happell. “VoIP is the traditional competitor to landline services,” he says, “but in Cambodia landline services have never established a strong enough foothold to remain competitive in the digital age.”

For ISPs, however, it’s a different story: VoIP services bring a host of new opportunities. “ISPs can provide not only the internet bandwidth for VoIP traffic, but also the VoIP services themselves for the customers that want a hosted solution,” explains Happell. And Cambodian providers are certainly not missing out on this opportunity. As Happell points out, all the major ISPs offer hosted VoIP services to businesses.

Benefits to e-business owners

“E-commerce business owners today use a wide variety of messaging apps like Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and the like, which come at minimum cost to them compared to traditional phone calls, and are faster and more effective than emails,” says Barta.

VoIP makes running an e-commerce business more convenient and cost-effective, as you eliminate the high cost associated with traditional calling services. VoIP applications also allow e-business owners to address customer inquiries in real time; not just locally, but worldwide. More importantly perhaps, in a country like Cambodia, where many business owners simply do not have access to landline services, VoIP apps give these entrepreneurs the opportunity to complement their e-commerce project with phone services, and compete in the global market.