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My challenge is for 5G to improve the quality of life

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Cellcard is a Cambodian-owned mobile telecommunications operator, a pioneer with over 20 years of service and currently known as one of the three leading operators in the Kingdom. In recent months the Cellcard brand has drawn international recognition for its aggressive 4G expansion drive, reaching 95% of coverage nation-wide. Cellcard is currently the Ookla Speed Test Award title holder (2018) and is also recognized by OpenSignal (2018) as Cambodia’s Fastest 4G Network, and Cambodia’s Fastest Overall Network. The current network program is focused on delivering Pre5G speed with ZTE, building the bridge between 4G and 5G. Recently, Cellcard was nominated for the “Operator CXO of the Year” award by the Singapore based 5G Asia.

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In this regard, Mr Ian Watson, CEO of Cellcard talks to Khmer Times about the company’s leadership and its expansion plans.

KT: You are off to Nanning, China later this week. Can you tell me more about this trip?
Mr Ian: The visit to Nanning, China is for a special purpose, coordinated by the China Information Harbour (CAIH), which is setting up a future hub to connect all of Asia to China.
We will be part of a delegation that will include about 500 representatives from across Southeast Asia – a mixture of business, ICT industry and some governments officials and ministers.
I will be presenting Cellcard’s vision for 5G there.
It’s important for Cambodia to be part of the wider ASEAN ICT network. We want to ensure we are one of the telco operators which can become a partner in their future plans in the region.

KT: Then you will be off to Singapore the following week for the 5G Asia conference. Can you tell us about that event?
Mr Ian: At the 5G Asia conference I will deliver a similar presentation about our vision for 5G. The key message is that for markets like Cambodia we need to challenge ourselves to make sure any 5G application will actually improve the quality of life in Cambodia.
For Cambodia, we need 5G to help provide safer connections to cities and to connect rural communities to critical services such as healthcare.
The 5G network will also help in city planning. We expect it will have a slightly different objective here in Cambodia as the country is undergoing rapid development, moving from an emerging market to a lower-middle-income economy.
And we can perhaps move faster than some more mature markets because we can apply 5G quickly in largely undeveloped infrastructures and geographies.

KT: Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Operator CXO Award – tell us about it:
Mr Ian: Operator CXO of the year recognises key individuals that have achieved something of note in SE Asia.
It’s about influencing the current developments for LTE and the future of 5G network developments and technologies to really make a difference.
It is a People’s Choice Award – you need to gain votes to win as well. Winning the award won’t be recognition for me but for Cellcard, and Cambodia.
So we encourage all our customers, partners and friends and families to vote for Cellcard, and at the same time give the Cambodian market the attention it deserves. Full details are on our website.

KT: What does the nomination say about Cellcard as a Cambodian telco? What does it mean to Cellcard and to its users?
Mr Ian: It’s a huge honour – it means word of our network achievements is getting heard. Our recent coverage in CEO Magazine Asia and Asia Outlook magazine shows that interest in Cambodia is growing. Doing what we did with our 4G network going from 300 sites to 3000 – really is a success story in itself.

KT: There is a price war on the horizon in Cambodia pitting various telcos that are trying to gain more market share. What’s your thought on that?
Mr.Ian: We don’t call it a price war. Instead, it is our strategy to give affordable access to mobile data for all Cambodians. We are levelling the playing field so all people can afford to be on the internet. Together with low-end smartphones we really are able to see a rise in mobile data usage and increasing penetration, even in rural areas.

KT: Does it suffice to be judged the fastest operator in Cambodia for two consecutive periods?
Mr.Ian: Yes of course. We have won the awards competing on the basis of statistics. There is no disputing the data that has been gathered.
Ookla and Open Signal are the most respected network auditors globally. There are a lot of false claims in the market right now. But be assured – only Cellcard has the actual statistical proof that it has the fastest 4G in the Kingdom.
Ookla also for the first time this year split their data into Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, and Cellcard 4G is significantly faster across all 3 city centres.

KT: Any new products on the horizon? Can we have a sneak peek of what you are planning to release for the last quarter of this year?
Mr.Ian: Of course it is confidential. But we can assure you it will be about continuing our drive to accelerate mobile data usage in both rural and urban areas.

KT: Where do you place Cellcard in terms of market share in Cambodia? What is Cellcard doing to maintain or increase its market share?
Mr.Ian: We are third in the market in terms of market share, but other operators were able to roll-out 4G ahead of us. Now we have caught up with the network and moving into new data products and services.
We are focused on driving more and more customers onto our new network nation-wide. Cellcard used to be Number 1 and our plan is to be Number 1 again.

KT: With the number of customers rising, should we worry about potential speed drops?
Mr.Ian: Definitely not, in fact, it is the opposite as speeds will only get faster. We have the best 4G LTE network and we monitor the traffic and manage capacity accordingly. We don’t slow down the customer’s experience and as we add new layers to the network we’ll be creating demand for very fast data.

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