There are currently about 20,000 subscribers in Cambodia and some 150,000 people use Internet cafes. The number of users is expected to grow substantially over the coming decade, driven by greater competition in the marketplace, reduced tariffs and cost of PCs and laptops.
High connection costs have resulted in a low number of subscribers, but costs are coming down and today an average monthly subscription costs about $40 compared to $100 a year ago.
Cambodia suffers from a lack of IT human resources and very low Internet connectivity in rural areas. The lack of intranet infrastructure inhibiting 98 per cent of the Cambodian population from logging on remains a major problem.
Internet access is available in all provinces, but the lack of a national fibre-optic cable network means that service is slow and unreliable. One major cable crosses Cambodia east to west between Thailand and Vietnam, another links Cambodia to Vietnam and Laos. However, a new high speed cable is set to connect Cambodia to China’s Yunnan Province. It is hoped that the new cable will bring cheaper, faster Internet to Cambodia.
The latest stage of this $18 million infrastructure project is expected to be completed in April 2009 by project implementer Cambodia Telecom. Constructed in two phases ? with the help of a Chinese loan ? the first a 113-kilometre section stretches from Poipet on the Thai border to Siem Reap province where it then connects to a longer 700-kilometre fibre-optic cable running north of Siem Reap province across the Lao border at Nong Nonkhien. Through Lao it connects onwards to the fibre-optic cable network already in place in China's Yunnan province.
Because of Cambodia’s poor infrastructure and remote rural areas, wireless offers a solution if a company plans to mass market their services.
WiMAX, meaning Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, enables the delivery of ‘last mile’ wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL. It shows particular potential in bringing lower pricing to both home and business customers and in making broadband access available in places where it has been economically unavailable.
Chuan Wei (Cambodia) Ltd. recently announced the appointment of Alcatel-Lucent to deploy a nationwide WiMAX Rev-e network in Cambodia. WiMAX Rev-e is the big brother of WiMAX Rev-d already operational in Cambodia and used by many Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Chuan Wei, part of the Thai Boon Roong conglomerate, is counting on the Alcatel-Lucent solution to meet its target of serving one million subscribers, roughly 80 per cent of the country's business and enterprise population, within two years of launch. Alcatel-Lucent is providing a complete turnkey solution for WiMAX Rev-e, including integration, design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance services.
Not all experts are as optimistic however and question the number of potential subscribers bearing in mind that users would have to first equip themselves with a modem or other appropriate equipment to support WiMAX technology. Then there’s the question of speed, WiMAX cannot provide high speed ? providing a maximum of 512 Kb/s ? and the average speed required by users in the region is expected to be between 3 and 6 MB/s by 2012. Chuan Wei remains undeterred though and you have to admire their enterprise.
"As the first provider to deploy a nationwide WiMAX Rev-e network in Cambodia, Chuan Wei is helping shape the future of communications in the region. The network will provide significant infrastructural support to Cambodia's economic growth, improving communications for local businesses and multinationals," said Chuan Wei's president, Alan Khov. "It will support high-quality voice telephony in addition to broadband access, thanks to the end-to-end quality of service features built into the Alcatel-Lucent solution."
"This large-scale contract win with Chuan Wei highlights Alcatel-Lucent's refocused strategy to WiMAX as the wireless-broadband solution for fixed, nomadic and data-centric mobility needs," said Mike Iandolo, President of Alcatel-Lucent's Wireless networks activities. "Driven to a large degree by demand in high-growth economies like Cambodia, we see the 'enhanced wireless DSL' market growing strongly over the next five-plus years worldwide with close to 90 per cent of WiMAX Rev-e subscribers by 2013, and we are focused on building on our leadership in this space."
Established in June 2008, Chuan Wei was awarded the sole licence to operate the only nationwide WiMAX mobility network in Cambodia. The company is focused on delivering state-of-the-art WiMAX wireless broadband infrastructure for Cambodian society, allowing the country to realise its potential via improved access to digital communications infrastructure.