In Cambodia, edotco manages more than 3,100 mobile network towers. Phillip Wong, edotco Cambodia’s country managing director, recently spoke to Khmer Times and outlined his company’s plans to help the kingdom expand and upgrade its telecoms infrastructure.
KT: Can you tell me about edotco?
Mr Wong: edotco is an integrated telecommunications infrastructure service company with more than 25,000 telco towers that we manage or own in the markets we operate – Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia. It is headquartered in Malaysia and is a subsidiary of Axiata.
KT: How long has edotco been in Cambodia?
Mr Wong: Edotco (Cambodia) Co., Ltd. was established in May 2012 with just five employees and 150 tenancies. Since then we have seen tremendous growth in our headcount and tower count. In 2015, our tower count grew to 1,800 towers after we acquired towers from anchor tenant Smart Axiata. To date, we have 25 employees and 3,500 tenancies.
KT: How many towers does edotco own and operate?
Mr Wong: edotco Group operates and manages a regional portfolio of over 25,000 towers. In Cambodia, we manage over 3,100 towers – 2,100 towers that are directly owned and operated by edotco, and another 1,000 towers where edotco provides managed services.
KT: Who are some of edotco’s clients in Cambodia?
Mr Wong: Today, nearly all Mobile Network Operators in Cambodia are major customers of edotco such as Smart Axiata, Seatel, Xinwei, CamGSM, and Emaxx. New operators focused in major cities and existing operators are filling in the gaps to enhance their 4G coverage and capacity throughout the country.
KT: What are edotco’s competitive advantages that distinguish it from other tower operators in the country?
Mr Wong: The pulse of innovation is very much in the edotco DNA. edotco Cambodia has introduced several innovations to our customers, such as the Remote Monitoring Center (echo) and Assets Life Cycle Management System (easi). With echo, it enables real-time remote monitoring, control, remote data collection, alarm capabilities and pro-active problem resolution for all passive infrastructure elements.
easi is a cloud-based tool to facilitate end-to-end Asset Lifecycle Management and control of infrastructure assets. It facilitates paperless operations, web access, e-library, field force management and report generation across geographies.
In term of tower innovations, edotco has introduced the carbon fiber tower to Cambodia, camouflage towers and special structures to blend with different environments.
KT: What are some of edotco Cambodia’s significant achievements or development in the country?
Mr Wong: One of our recent achievements is our collaboration with Xinwei under an exclusive agent agreement. edotco Cambodia is providing managed services for 1,000 sites to Xinwei. With our 2,100 towers and managed towers 1,000, the tenancies have grown significantly in the first half of 2017.
We also offer innovative solutions to our customers such as Cell on Wheels (COW) – a portable base station used for special events such concerts or in disaster areas. We established a Tower Operation Center (TOC) to provide round-the-clock assistance and support to our customers. We also introduced an intelligent security system (Smart padlock), allowing access to the sites to be remotely managed from the Tower Operation Center.
KT: What is the focus of edotco’s Cambodian operations?
Mr Wong: edotco has been operating in Cambodia for five years and we have been working with our clients to support their communications and infrastructure-building needs. Over the years we have seen modest tower growth both organically and inorganically and are focused on our group’s vision on being the “World’s Best Towerco”. As such, our current focus is on serving our customers as best as we can and gaining scale when the opportunity arises.
We plan to build 600 new towers in the next three years. The Royal Government of Cambodia plans to transform the country through its policy ICT connectedness and readiness 2020 in the coming years to improve connectivity. edotco fully supports the vision, which is why we are hosting the International Infrastructure Summit in this August.
KT: Can you talk more about the edotco Infrastructure Summit that is scheduled to take place in August?
Mr Wong: The International Infrastructure Summit, which is organized by edotco, will be held in Phnom Penh on 28 August. This one-day gathering will bring together decision makers and telco and infrastructure experts to discuss the latest trends, update stakeholders on infrastructure technology and innovation and create awareness about the telco infrastructure sector.
This inaugural edotco summit in Cambodia supports the country’s vision to be connected and ICT ready by 2020. We look forward to welcoming delegates from Cambodia and around the region to the event.
KT: How would you comment on Cambodia’s telecommunications market and infrastructure landscape?
Mr Wong: Cambodia is an up-and-coming tower market with immense potential. The country has experienced strong economic growth over the last decade and represents a market with considerable opportunities.
Cambodia’s efforts to expand and upgrade its telecom infrastructure have been successful despite its status as one of the less-developed countries in the region. There was very little infrastructure remaining before the 1990s, and as a result, Cambodia leap-frogged the rebuilding of fixed-line infrastructure and launched into alternative technologies – jump-starting its telecommunications infrastructure with digital and mobile technology.
Cambodia’s ICT sector is one with massive potential, in line with the country’s strong economic growth. National mobile connectivity has undergone immense growth in the last few years due to Royal Government of Cambodia’s facilitative policies and light touch regulatory approaches that have encouraged investments in the sector, whereby mobile penetration is now over 110 percent, supported by infrastructure players like edotco Cambodia. Since being established in late 2012, the company has now become one of the country’s major passive infrastructure players where 23 percent (out of approximately 9,000) of towers in the market are now edotco’s. By the end of this year, we would have close to 2,500 towers and plan to build at least another 200 by end of 2018.
KT: What are some of the challenges that edotco Cambodia is facing?
Mr Wong: In the 21st century, there will be further opportunities with infrastructure providers like edotco playing a direct role in the country’s ICT development. As the ICT and Development Policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia states a vision of having 100 percent broadband service coverage in urban areas and 70 percent coverage in rural areas (and up to 80% internet penetration) by 2020, edotco Cambodia will play a big role in providing state-of-the-art solutions which will not only facilitate proliferation of mobile connectivity, but also maximise operational efficiencies though leveraging new technologies and alternate energies.
KT: Does the fact that both edotco and Smart being subsidiaries of Axiata affect business operations at all?
Mr Wong: edotco is a wholly independent tower operator and operates with strict commercial neutrality in all its dealings with other Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). edotco Cambodia has made accessible its tower assets to all operators and with no favouritism in rental fees.
KT: How do you think the Cambodia tower market will change in the next five years?
Mr Wong: There are some promising developments and the tower market continues to remain attractive for investment, with LTE being rolled out and new legislation supporting infrastructure development under the new telecom law. Tower sharing is also a trend that is gaining traction as operators look to cost optimise, fast expansion and cut network roll out costs for MNOs so that there will be further growth opportunities ahead.
However with telecoms coverage already at 90 percent, it remains to be seen if the market has reached peak saturation and whether further towers will need to be deployed.
Having said that, edotco Cambodia is committed to continue enabling connectivity in the country and striving ultimately to be an integrated telecommunications infrastructure services provider with the objective of enabling connectivity by being the one stop centre for telecommunication sites and bandwidth services in Cambodia.
This is a corrected version of the interview, that was published on Monday, to reflect technical accuracies.