With very few telecommunications companies having fulfilled their obligation towards the recently-established telecom funds, the sector has been able to raise more than $4 million that will be used to finance the deployment of telecom network infrastructure in rural areas of the country and improve ICT capabilities in the Kingdom.
Created in July 2017, the Capacity Building, Research and Development Fund in T-ICT sector (R&D Fund) and the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USO Fund) have collected $1.7 million and $2.5 million, respectively.
Starting last year, each telecom entity in the country had to contribute set percentages of their gross revenue to the Funds: one percent to the R&D Fund and two percent to the USO Fund.
Money collected in the USO Fund will be used for building telecommunication infrastructure in rural areas, while the Funds in the R&D reserve will go towards development of human capital in the sector.
Speaking during a press conference yesterday, Tol Gnak, director general at the Directorate General of Posts and Telecommunications, said the collection system for the USO Fund has been set up with different stages. After the first stage, $2.5 million have already been collected.
“While most operators have fulfilled their obligation, some still have to pay,” Mr Gnak said.
Chun Vat, director general of ICT at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said telecoms now have until the end of February to pay their contribution to the R&D Fund.
“The deadline to pay has been postponed several times, so we cannot reveal the identities of those who have not paid their part yet.”
“We ask telecom operators that haven’t made their contribution yet, to pay as soon as they can contribute to the development of the sector. If not, we will have to take action based on the law,” Mr Vat said.
At press time, not all the operators were able to be contacted. However, based on a media query to Smart Axiata, it appears that besides the leading mobile operator, there are many other major telecom operators that have yet to make any contribution to the Fund, required by Law, where noncompliance could lead to very strong penalties.
“Smart continues to operate in an entirely transparent manner and have always taken our national responsibilities very seriously in terms of being compliant towards paying tax and contributing to government development funds. Since the passing of the USO Fund and Capacity Building and R&D Fund, we have contributed in excess of $3.5million and have worked closely with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in line with the government’s vision of achieving universal broadband service as well as increased ICT capabilities in the country.”
In most countries where such Funds are implemented, telecommunication operators are able to capitalise on them through individual projects or claiming through publicly announced projects. The modalities of both Funds in Cambodia are similar to these whereby operators will be incentivised to improve telecom infrastructure in very rural areas and promote ICT capacity development in the country.