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IT & Communications

As a rising number of young Cambodians get their hands on the country’s available technologies, the IT sector is one that is exploding. Demand for the internet, mobile phones and other forms of technology continue to increase, with the younger generation realising the future potential in this area.

Here’s an overview of the telecommunications market in Cambodia, including mobile operators, internet service providers and the variety of computer equipment available.

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  • Internet subscribers in Cambodia have grown from 320,190 in 2010 to an impressive 6,264,902 as of Q2 2015.
  • Currently, internet in Cambodia is reliant on its neighbours—Vietnam and Thailand, though it also comes from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and even as far afield as the US and Australia.
  • Yet, while the subterranean cables have improved the overall quality of connections, problems still arise. Events such as blackouts and fires can occur that can cause the fibre optic cables to stop working without notice.
  • Cambodia currently has no direct link to a submarine cable. Ezecom is currently working on a 1,425km submarine communications cable connecting Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand that will plug into the Asian American Gateway—the 20,000km submarine communication cable that connects South East Asia to the USA and the rest of the world.
  • The move will likely drive down Internet costs and improve consistency of service – boosting domestic speed up to 100mbps.
  • The telecoms sector continues to be competitive, as does the ISP market, meaning options are increasing while prices are being driven down.
  • Mobile operators already offer access to the Internet via 3G and 3.5G networks, either directly to your telephone, to your computer by using your telephone as a wireless modem, or via a USB dongle.
  • Smart Mobile 4G launched Cambodia’s first 4G service in January 2014: 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a wireless communication standard that is specially designed for mobile data network speeds up to 15mbps. Customers can now get 1GB – or even more data – for only $1USD. Now 4G LTE is available in all 25 provinces.
  • Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) has joined Ezecom to provide enterprise cloud services in the Kingdom in 2015. IbizCloud is an on-demand virtual leased line (ODVLL) for secure data transmission between a customer’s sites via a cloud platform.
  • Data volume is growing tremendously: Last year alone it grew by four times.
  • Currently, internet in Cambodia is reliant on its neighbours—Vietnam and Thailand, though it also comes from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and even as far afield as the US and Australia.
  • Yet, while the subterranean cables have improved the overall quality of connections, problems still arise.
  • Events such as blackouts and fires can occur that can cause the fibre optic cables to stop working without notice.
  • Ezecom is currently working on a 1,425km communications cable connecting Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand that will plug into the Asian American Gateway—the 20,000km submarine communication cable that connects South East Asia to the USA and the rest of the world.
  • Completion is expected in 2015 and the move will likely drive down Internet costs and improve consistency of service, boosting domestic speed up to 100mbps.
  • There are currently five major mobile phone providers operating in Cambodia.
  • Foreigners are required to show a copy of their passport and visa to buy a registered SIM card.
  • Unregistered SIM cards can be bought from a number of small stalls that line the streets.
  • The most popular option is pre-paid accounts, with credit again available from multiple street stallholders.
  • There are several options available to access the internet depending on your needs. Connecting to the Internet can be done through a fixed connection from an ISP or a mobile connection from a telephone operator.
  • ISPs offer fixed Internet connections, usually taking one of three forms: ADSL, Wimax and fibre optic.
  • Prices for fixed connections vary depending on speed and data limits – but for less than US$60 a month you should get at least a 1 MB/s connection with a large, and possibly “unlimited”, data allowance, though the speed and download limits may be capped in the fine print of the contract.
  • Mobile operators offer access to the Internet via 3G networks, either directly to your telephone, to your computer by using your telephone as a wireless modem, or via a dongle.
  • There are an increasing number of retail stores in Cambodia that sell, maintain and repair computers.
  • Some are accredited retailers and resellers for major brands such as Apple, Dell, Acer and HP.
  • Computer equipment is competitively priced, though this seems to vary by brand, and a far wider selection can be found in Bangkok, usually at slightly cheaper prices, especially for the latest models.
  • If you require repairs or maintenance, some of the major retailers such as Anana and PTC have authorised service centres.
  • Mac users are also well served and the country now has a number of authorised service providers, including Uni Young and iOne.
  • Computers here are also prone to failure given the heat, dust and humidity.
  • Most buildings in Cambodia are not earthed and voltage can vary a great deal, potentially damaging computers.
  • Use a voltage stabiliser with Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) to alleviate this risk if computers are important to your business.
  • When purchasing goods that come with a warranty, be warned there are several shops falsely claiming to be accredited to authorised brands.
  • It can also be difficult to get warranties honoured.
  • For example, if a laptop is bought in the United States and you want to come to Cambodia, you may need to send a request to transfer the warranty.
  • Also remember that having to have parts sent to other countries to be repaired can mean a long wait for them to be fixed and returned – sometimes up to eight weeks.
  • There are many shops in Cambodia which falsely claim to be accredited to authorised brands, which can spell trouble for consumers when it comes to warranties.
  • Typically, when a part fails in a machine it needs to be sent away from Cambodia – either repaired and then sent back or replaced with a new part.
  • The confusion can occur when the item comes back across the border into Cambodia and is then treated as a brand new product again and potentially re-taxed.
  • Things are changing, however, people have increased confidence that products are not copied anymore.
  • Increasingly, if it’s a registered, authorised dealer, and the aftercare service is there, and the price for a genuine item is comparable with other markets – it probably is genuine.
  • Computer security in Cambodia is a major issue.
  • Caution must be taken when having software or operating systems installed on your computer as in many cases they will be pirated and illegal to use.
  • Such software may not allow updates and consequently any problems you may have can continue to persist throughout the life of the software.
  • Use a reliable anti-virus programme, keep it updated and remember viruses are especially prevalent at Internet cafés and easily transferred via USB thumb drives.
  • Back up data regularly, whether to a DVD or hard drive, or to one of the many available cloud computing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive.
  • The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) is the Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia (TRC).
  • With the many mobile phone operators and ISPs operating across the country, it is imperative that the ministry be effective in managing disputes between providers, allowing confidence to grow among investors.
  • One issue that the regulatory body deals with is the constant need to meet the demands of users which, with regards to the mobile sector, constitutes 86% of the population.
  • Mobile phone operators such as Hello and Smart have merged, offering consumers and businesses alike greater quality network coverage, capacity and a wider range of products.
  • With so much happening in Cambodia’s telecoms landscape in such a short period of time, the TRC has been criticised by some for not keeping up or failing to operate in a completely independent manner.
  • However, with the resources available and without the long awaited telecommunications law to give an overriding framework for operation, the introduction of the TRC has been a successful one.
  • Postal services and telecommunications fall under the control of the Ministry of Post & Telecommunications.
  • Telecom Cambodia is Cambodia’s principal telecommunications company but with the introduction of the Telecoms Regulator its position of authority is likely to change as the aim is for the regulator to be an independent body, separate from the Ministry and Telecom Cambodia.
  • See more details by visitingmptc.gov.kh.
  • There are a range of software solutions handcrafted in Cambodia to help businesses to run smoothly.
  • These range from payroll and HR systems to accounting systems, billing systems, point-of-sales systems, hospitality management systems, enterprise resource planning, and customer databases.
  • While there is still a lack of well-trained developers in the country, universities have started to consider adding mobile app development and similar courses to their curriculum to cater for the growing interest in the field.
  • Some back-end technology courses specialising in servers, operating systems, hardware, email servers, web servers, software and operating system security are also increasingly being offered.
  • Mobile apps, programming, 3D animations and website development are just a few things Cambodia is demonstrating a talent for.
  • In terms of learning cycle, there are new programming languages and software tools developed every day, so being a newcomer isn’t a disadvantage in this sector. In many cases, all you need to learn is the latest programing language.
  • A local company called Osja Studio won First Prize at the ASEAN ICT Awards 2014.
  • Another example is the Khmer Smart Keyboard—a typing app for smartphones, that EZECOM has supported. Typing Khmer using the standard settings on an Apple or a Samsung smartphone is a lot of work – but these developers have come up with an app that cuts typing time by half with a couple of simple adaptations. The truth is no one else, in Silicon Valley or anywhere else in the world, was going to develop something like that for such a small market like Cambodia, so it had to come from here. And it did.
  • In March 2015, USAID’s Cambodia Development Innovations hosted a “Why Technology Should Be a Girl Thing” forum – which aimed to promote increased female participation in the Cambodian technology field.
  • USAID and many others within the industry believe more women in the technology field promotes gender equality as well as innovation and development within the industry.
  • There are a variety of startup companies in Cambodia which are involved in application development.
  • Keep you eyes peeled for app development conferences around Cambodia involving these like-minded business people.

IT Top Tips

Here’s how to get the most IT in Cambodia, according to our experts.

  • The cheapest may not be the best when it comes to choosing an internet provider.
  • Cheap connections are slower than what any might be used to outside of Cambodia.
  • Instead, pay slightly more to get internet services with world class speed and quality.
  • The speed will change with the introduction of high capacity, direct to international port submarine cables.
  • The talent pool available when it comes to IT and computer programming, developing and designing is gaining strength in Cambodia.
  • New graduates bring the latest skills.
  • Due to the nature of change in technology available for IT development, it’s important to have a number of fresh graduates who understand the latest technology.
  • Experience can become outdated in the technology industry extremely quickly.

The Internet in Cambodia

All you need to know about the internet and how to get the most out of it in Cambodia.

  • Internet speeds look set to improve after plans for an $80 million underwater cable were unveiled by Ezecom in June 2013.
  • The MCT will take the form of a new Ezecom -led, 1,425km communications cable connecting Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand that will plug into the Asian American Gateway – the 20,000km submarine communication cable that connects South East Asia to the USA and the rest of the world.
  • The move will drive down expensive internet costs and drastically improve the service, boosting domestic speed up to 100 megabits per second.
  • The MCT cable system will land at Sihanoukville, Cambodia and Kuantan, Malaysia respectively.
  • Internet service providers have worked hard over the last few years to improve the speed and quality of connections and these improvements are thanks to advancements in the use of fibre optic cables.
  • Fixed Internet connections usually take one of three forms: ADSL, WiMAX and fibre optic. Prices for fixed connections vary depending on speed and data limits but for less than $40 a month for a commercial product, a business customer should get at least a 1mbps connection with a large, and possibly “unlimited”, data allowance and static IP address, though the speed and download limits may be capped in the fine print of the contract.
  • With ISPs competing in the market, prices for fixed Internet connections are continuing to fall as access speeds improve.
  • Companies with specific requirements, such as maintaining connectivity throughout a branch network or between local and international headquarters can avail themselves of a number of premium services.
  • These include, virtual private networks (VPNs), local loops, and international private leased circuits. Those with critical documentation should also consider off-site data storage and disaster recovery services.
  • Fixed connections are more stable though mobile connections are clearly advantageous if your business requires you to be on the move. Need a good Internet connection? Consider investing in a dedicated leased line or get a second connection as backup or buy a USB 3G modem to access one of the mobile networks.
  • In terms of ISP offerings, ADSL uses a landline telephone so you will first need to get one installed by Camintel (023 986 789) or Telecom Cambodia (023 211 111).
  • Wimax is transmitted over the air so you will need to install a receiver, typically on the roof of the building. ADSL connections are generally less affected by weather conditions and many operators now offer fibre optic connections, and more reliable option, though they are often priced at a premium.
  • Mobile operators offer access to the Internet via 3G and 3.5G networks, either directly to your telephone, to your computer by using your telephone as a wireless modem, or via a USB dongle.
  • Smart Mobile 4G launched Cambodia’s first 4G service in January 2014. 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a wireless communication standard that is specially designed for mobile data network speeds up to 15mbps.
  • For low volume users mobile data connections can be a very cost effective way to access the Internet, with prices starting from US$3 a month for a 2 MB/s connection and 2GB data limit. For “unlimited” data usage expect to pay around US$50 a month.
  • Cambodia is home to a predominantly young population with rapidly increasing access to the Internet. This has spawned a new generation of techies who are leading what is hoped will be a technology and mobile industry boom.
  • Easy access to the internet has opened up a world of opportunities to Cambodia’s younger generation. Many of whom have snapped up the skills needed to develop innovative mobile apps, programmes and other technology and IT-related initiatives. University and college degrees within the industry have been developed and now cater for a range of subjects within the sector.
  • While there is currently a lack of well-trained developers in the country, universities are started to consider adding mobile app development and similar courses to their curriculum to cater for the growing interest in the field.

Phones and Networks

Everything you need to know to get talking in Cambodia.

  • Mobile phones are a vital part of Cambodia’s economy and are widely available, new and second-hand.
  • Most mobile phone networks offer 3G subscription packages that range in price depending on download speed and limit. While rural coverage is patchy, especially in the most remote parts, mobile phone networks are expanding to provide as wide a range of service as possible.
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is also provided by several networks, allowing cheap international calls. Internet services such as Skype and Viber are also popular options for people wanting to connect with others abroad. Many networks also offer cheap calls to landlines abroad – often costing significantly less than calling someone on another operator in Cambodia so it is worth checking the prices if you plan on using your mobile to make a number of international calls.
  • This to some extent explains why mobile phone penetration figures are so high, with figures from the Cambodian Ministry of Telecommunications showing upwards of 18 million subscribers in mid-2013 – only about 10 million are estimated to be active.
  • The majority of mobile phone users opt for pre-paid or pay as you go connections where credit is purchased from licensed shops and roadside vendors.
  • Top-up cards are available from US$1 up to US$50, though some operators such as Smart and Cellcard allow users to top up credit electronically and accounts can also be topped up at numerous ATMs.
  • Most operators offer discounted top ups and promotions at regular intervals, especially around public holidays.
  • Telephone credit also has an expiry date – cards are usually valid for a month though higher value top-up cards often have later expiry dates.
  • Post-paid packages are also available from many operators and can offer free calls within the same network for a small monthly fee.
  • However, because credit control is in its infancy in Cambodia, large customers must present a guarantee letter while individuals are expected to pay a deposit for the handset.
  • Some operators also offer free SMSs, Internet access and even a limited number of free international calls.
  • Customers are typically required to pay a deposit of around $50 per phone number for local calls and considerably more for international.
  • These packages are popular with businesses as they often come with a series of options, such as closed user groups offering free calls between employees.
  • Landline telephones are not as popular as cell phones in Cambodia.
  • However, it lends credibility to a business as it requires the business to have its own premises and be registered with the telecommunications authorities.
  • Additionally, connections to the Internet using ADSL require subscribers to have a landline.
  • If you need a landline, you can contact Camintel (023 986 789) or Telecom Cambodia (023 426 510).
  • A landline costs approximately $15 per month, with a one-off installation fee of around $15.
  • If you will be traveling within the region, several mobile phone operators offer both pre-paid and post-paid roaming services.
  • Charges for the service vary considerably from country to country as they are generally levied by the operator in whichever country you are visiting, and typically range from $2-6 per minute for calls back to Cambodia.
  • You should also expect to pay a deposit, perhaps as high as $500, if you choose to use roaming as part of a post-paid service, or you may be required to provide a corporate guarantee letter from your company or organisation.
  • Data roaming (GPRS and/or 3G) and SMS roaming services are also available from some operators but are also costly.
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