Phone Charges Slashed, But Not Enough, Businesses Say

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has revised phone tariffs, reducing international phone charges by 12 percent and cutting prices for land-line installation and usage by half.

Although the tariffs, which became effective March 1, will make phone calls cheaper, investors say the new prices are still too high compared to those in other countries.

Under the new phone tariffs, consumers pay $1.50 per minute for calls to neighboring countries, $1.60 for calls to Asia and $1.80 to the rest of the world. Prices are further reduced on the weekend to $1.35, $1.44 and $1.62, respectively. These prices are applied for both the state-owned gateway (prefix 001) and Mobitel’s Tele2 (prefix 007), according to the ministry.

For the installation of state-owned land lines, the charge has been reduced to $70 from $150. Monthly rental fees of such lines are now $8 in Phnom Penh and $6 in provinces, compared to $13 and $10, respectively.

Phone charges for domestic calls using land lines remain the same: $0.01 per minute for local calls and $0.15 for long-distance calls. Calls from land lines to mobile phones also remain the same at $0.15 per minute, according to the ministry.

“The new tariffs are going to make a big difference,” said Lam Pou Au, a secretary of state for the ministry. “It will help develop the country’s telecommunication sector.”

But critics say the cost of land lines must be reduced further to make them more accessible. According to the ministry, there are only about 20,000 users of the state land-line network, while more than 100,000 people use mobile networks.

“Cambodia’s telecommunications is still expensive. We are paying more in Cambodia than in other countries,” said Senaka Fernando, president of the British Business Association. By comparison, international calls made from the Philippines have a flat fee of only $0.40 per minute.

Hann Khieng, a committee member of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, said the ministry must pay attention to its service quality, claiming the state-run land line is not reliable

“The price reduction means nothing,” he said. “The first thing [the ministry] has to do is improve the quality of line connections.”

The ministry has been cutting prices of phone calls every year since 1998. Last March, the international tariffs were cut by about 30 percent and domestic phone charges by 15 percent.

A senior official of the ministry said the reduction, along with the anticipated introduction of a pre-paid card system for land lines, will encourage more people to use the cheaper land-line phones, instead of the more expensive mobiles. The pre-paid system is expected to be ready by the end of April, he said.

“This is certainly good news because one of the barriers to business development has been the cost of telecommunications,” said Tim Smyth, president of the Australian Business Association.

Phone usage has increased significantly in the past few years. According to the ministry, one person out of 100 subscribed to either a mobile or land-line phone in 2000, six times more than in 1994.

 

© 2001 – 2013, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.