The launch of the fifth generation wireless technology for digital cellular networks known as 5G in the Kingdom will not happen this year because the government is only now drafting policy and roadmap for it, according to a senior official of the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC).
Earlier this year, 5G testing had been conducted by several telecoms operators in the country and each company claimed to be the first 5G service provider in the industry. However, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications asked for an end to testing in March.
5G will massively decrease download times and enable Cambodia to join the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), essential to a successful future digital economy. 5G will enable robotics in industry and government functions to run efficiently via the internet, among other advantages.
To allow the telecom operators to launch 5G, the ministry will set up a policy and a roadmap to support and ensure the investment security of companies doing business in Cambodia, said TRC’s spokesman Im Vutha.
Vutha added that each company has shown their investment in 5G infrastructure and to make it work will cost round $200 million initially. This is a big investment, he added.
“When there is a lot of capital, we have to think what should we do with the infrastructure. If they build separate infrastructures, it will cost much more money, so we have to have a policy to guide them. The policy is to make sure that the investment the private sector makes will not overlap, so it is a benefit for all,” he added.
Four companies have already succeeded in 5G testing. They are Smart Axiata Co Ltd, Cam GSM, commercially known as Cellcard, Vietnam-based Metfone and South East Asia Telecom Group Pte Ltd (SEATEL Group).
There were 20.3 million sim-card subscribers and internet subscribers numbered more than 15.26 million by August 2020, according to TRC’s statistics.
“At present, the government is focusing on the digital economy. Therefore, it needs the digital infrastructure connected. This comes in the form of 5G. If there is no 5G, we cannot run a digital economy effectively,” Vutha added.
“For our economic foundation, we can use 4G, but 5G must be aligned with Industry 4.0 to access the latest technology and artificial intelligence and the internet of things [IoT].
He said that the telecom operators will need to have the policy and a roadmap for further investment.
Vutha added the ministry wants to conduct 5G testing because it wants to know and wants to make sure what level of capital telecom operators need to invest in 5G.
“Now we have all inputs and have sent them to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the ministry is working on this task. Therefore, it will take time and, when there is policy in place, it will pave the way for the telecom operators to follow,” Vutha added.
5G technology will need more investment capital and the return on investment will need time because it is a new technology and it needs time to spread the information to consumers, Vutha noted.
He added there are more tasks that need closer study such as the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), IoT and big data, for example.
If there are none of these, then 5G will need a long time to generate profits.
“We must think it through thoroughly because investors are investing and they want a profit. If it takes a long time to generate profits, it will be problematic for them to make an investment. Therefore, we have to have a clear policy for investing in 5G technology,” Vutha added.
The policy will be beneficial to the service providers and consumers and government.
“I cannot answer when it is going to be ready. It is up to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications,” he said. 5G is the digital infrastructure and digital connection and facility to service 4IR.