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Cambodia’s telco market has been experiencing a series of significant transformations. Addressing the changing demands of consumers is a significant part of this whole process. During the FutureNet Asia 2023 in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, Telecom Review Asia got the chance to talk to Andrey Kuzin, CTO, Smart Axiata, to discuss the significant contribution of Smart Axiata in the telco industry within Cambodia and how they address the challenges and embrace opportunities presented by the rapidly evolving environment.

Cambodia is a rapidly developing market with evolving consumer needs. Can you elaborate on the challenges and opportunities in this dynamic environment?

In Cambodia, we currently find ourselves in a unique situation. It's a market characterized by lower-tier, entirely prepaid services, with remarkably high usage within this segment. Therefore, there exists a notable demand for smartphone users in Cambodia to consume a higher amount of data per month when compared to the global average. However, there are many other expenses competing with telecom spending that make them reluctant to increase spending.

When it comes to the enterprise market, it hasn't fully materialized yet, it’s almost non-existent. The current opportunities lie in a couple of different directions. Mobile connectivity seems to have been largely addressed, but there are two major areas where I see future potential.

The first is in the direction of enterprise solutions. It’s a field that holds great promise, and there’s room for significant growth and development. The second is in fixed broadband services. These two avenues appear to be where the future opportunities in Cambodia’s telecommunications landscape are most likely to emerge.

What strategies and initiatives are Smart Axiata implementing to address the growing demands in an increasingly complex digital environment?

If we take a look at this from a futuristic growth perspective, it's clear that we're facing a bit of a challenge, especially in the fixed broadband segment. In the Cambodian market, the infrastructure license and the operational license are two separate licenses. Smart Axiata currently lacks a fiber license. We're actively working to secure one because we see a significant opportunity in the field of fixed broadband, both for home and business use.

To address the absence of this license, we've been engaging with partners who possess the necessary licenses for building fiber infrastructure. We've established several agreements, and we're already in commercial operation, connecting users to this network. In a way, we're pioneering this approach because the other two operators either have the required licenses directly or they have their ISP within the same group of companies. That essentially makes us the only telco in the market working to collaborate with infrastructure companies and transform these relationships into profitable business ventures.

How is Smart Axiata investing in technological advancements and network capabilities to ensure its sustained competitiveness and relevance?

Smart Axiata’s network has reached an impressive level of advancement. We've dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to elevate our core network, radio and transport networks. Over the past three years, we've invested approximately 60 to 70 million USD annually in capital expenditures. This ongoing commitment has allowed us to build a future-proof, highly capable network.

Our network operates within an on-premise cloud infrastructure, which provides us with remarkable scalability and control over our network's capabilities.

Furthermore, we invest a lot in the development of our people because we believe that skills and expertise are of equal importance. In my division, I'm running a training program tailored to individual engineers. We've been running this program for the past three or four years. It all began with rigorous testing, followed by the development of personalized training plans. We've been dedicated to this effort for several years because we genuinely want to build our people up and develop their skills.

Digital transformation is the engine for stronger economic growth. How is Smart Axiata positioned to facilitate and empower enterprise digital transformation initiatives that are essential for Cambodia’s continuous economic development?

Looking from an enterprise solution point of view, I see that there is a demand for enterprise-grade cloud solutions. This includes computing, storage, backup, cable-based or wireless transportation solutions, and even M2M services. We have made a commitment to invest in these areas. We're not just investing in systems, but also in people. As a result, we are in the process of hiring a substantial number of individuals. We've identified these directions as our primary focus, and we're actively bringing in new talent and providing them with training. That's essentially what we're doing – investing in both our team and our infrastructure.

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