Saturday, August 25, 2007

Waiting For Affordable Internet in Cambodia

Honestly, I don’t bother writing this blog entry, if I don’t have internet connection directly to my laptop. As a Cambodian blogger, I believe that I am one of the lucky few those do not have to go to the internet cafe. One of my friends said that he would not bother go to internet research for his study, if he have to pay for hourly internet. Sadly, in Cambodia we have to pay hourly or per megabyte basis for internet, because, the unlimited bandwidth is not an affordable option. The long-wait for affordable internet connection has not delivered any significant result. As an internet user, I do not just accept the high price of internet connection, I spend my free time research, understanding the factors behind the cost of internet, and I also find the best option to reduce my internet connection expenses.

Internet has been in Cambodia for a decade, yet the price of internet connection is still high. Although the price has been coming down steadily, most Cambodian still cannot afford the internet connection. Today the average cost of unlimited 64kbps connection is US$ 200 per month, too much for a country where the GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $500(2006 EST.)
Isn’t it? Following are my understanding of what’s going on in Cambodia internet industry.

  • Highly Regulated Market: Despite entrance of new ISPs, Cambodia ISPs industry is remain highly regulated. For a company to offer internet connection services to customers, it has to obtain an ISP license through Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. There is no information on how many licenses have been issued, but, there are currently 11 ISPs in business. According to MPTC, 4-6, Oct 2006 “To answers the market needs, MPTC has issued licenses to some companies of using different wireless systems up on new technology development.”
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Cambodian has more mobile than land-line phone. Therefore, DSL is not the answers to the problem. Wireless is the only solution possible if a company plan to mass market the services. Most of ISPs are deploying own solution as with xDSL systems, wireless broadband system such as Wi-Fi, WiMax, and satellite broadband to provide internet access for their customers. Until now those wireless system are not reliable or successful for business case. (MPTC, 4-6, Oct 2006). Although total bandwidth in Cambodia has grown significantly, from 9.5mbps in 2001 to 160mbps in 2006, the international gateway is at its bottleneck (AFACT, 2006). Currently, there are only 2 existing fiber optic links to Phnom Penh, one from the country’s west border with Thailand, another links to Vietnam. There is also another link from Siem Reap to Thailand. Although, there is plan to put more fiber optic links, I don’t expect immediate result in lowering cost in the near future.
  • Competitiveness: Although there are many ISPs compete against each other, Camnet remain a dominant player in the market. Because most of ISPs do not operate their own international gateway. Thus, in the up stream market Camnet is the only dominant supplier in the market.

So many factors to keep the price of internet connections high, But the bottom line is Cambodian internet users have to pay those high price. Sadly, this will limit the resources that Cambodian students need to seek for knowledge, creativity, and sharing information. As I said above, I don’t bother blogging, if I have to go to internet cafe to post blog entries, and I am glad that there are many bloggers who spend their precious time and money in the internet cafe, to share information and knowledge. The long wait for affordable internet connections has not yet finish, so keep waiting… References: 1. MPTC Slide presentation at 13th Sub-regional Telecommunication Meeting for Cambodia, LAO P.D.R., Vietnam, and Myanmar. 4-6 October 2006, Yangon-Myanmar. 2. AFACT, 2006 “Cambodia Progress Report”, International Institute of Cambodia.

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