Underwater Cable Set to Increase Cambodia’s Connectivity

Plans were unveiled Tuesday for an $80 million underwater communications cable between Cambodia and Malaysia, which is expected to help the country’s oversaturated telecommunications market by boosting the capacity of mobile phone and In­ternet connectivity, while reducing the costs incurred by users.

But customers in Cambodia will have to wait at least another year until the project is complete, officials said.

The submarine communications cable, known as the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand connection, is the brainchild of local telecommunications firm Telcotech Ltd., a subsidiary of Internet service provider EZECOM, and is the first of its kind in the country.

“This is the next stage of development for Cambodia…fast and affordable Internet for all,” Paul Blanche-Horgan, CEO of EZECOM, said during a signing ceremony to form a consortium for the project between Telcotech and Kuala Lumpur-based Telekom Malaysia Bhd.

“It is more than Cambodia needs for a long, long time,” he said.

Mr. Blanche-Horgan said the cable ultimately would help re­duce costs for customers as the country’s eight mobile operators tap into it for more direct access.

“We will have wholesale customers in the country and region who will use this cable for more direct Internet that is cheaper for the consumer,” he said, adding that the two companies are now in talks with a Thailand-based telecommunications firm to join the consortium.

“We will each pay one-third of the price,” Mr. Blanche-Horgan said, declining to name the Thai company. “The project will go out to bid in the next few months and will be completed by the end of 2014.”

The cable will stretch 1,425 km between Kuantan, Malaysia, and Sihanoukville, and connect to Telcotech’s already-installed 20,000-km cable that joins Southeast Asia with the U.S.

Regionally, such cables connect Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, according to TeleGeography, a telecommunications marketing research firm in Washington.

Alan Mauldin, research director at TeleGeography, said by phone Tuesday that the cable “will help to enable, over time, the operators in Cambodia to continue to grow their capacity as demand grows.”

But Mr. Mauldin said that it takes more than just a submarine cable for consumers to see a drop in prices.

“It’s one cost component, but it’s not a guarantee that retail prices will fall. If the market is competitive, then the cost savings would get passed along to the customers,” he said.

Thomas Hundt, CEO of local mobile operator Smart, said Tuesday in an email that his company would look into investing in the submarine cable when it becomes available.

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