A MobiTel official on Sunday blamed a massive jump in telephone traffic during the past month for increasing difficulty in making successful phone calls, as MobiTel users said they have grown exasperated.
“Everybody needs to communicate. We can’t live alone in a society. So it is important to select a good service,” said Seix Vyravuth, who said he spends a lot of money making calls for his job with the Pathe Films company.
For the majority of Cambodians who rely on hand phones, that service has been 012, MobiTel’s line. But recently some customers have been giving more consideration to its competitors.
“I have lost confidence in the MobiTel company. At first it was easy to use, but now the sound isn’t clear and its rate is more expensive than the other companies,” Seix Vyravuth said. “I am going to select another phone service if its rate doesn’t drop and it remains difficult to communicate. Sometimes I call my friend when he is sitting right next to me, but I can’t reach him.”
David Spriggs, MobiTel’s general manager, said Sunday that since the Water Festival, there has been a 50 percent to 60 percent jump in call traffic that the top telecommunications provider has not been able to handle.
“Given the sudden jump, we haven’t catered to that capacity,” Spriggs said. “The equipment to fix the problem is in country and should be operating in 10 days.”
Spriggs said MobiTel has spent about $500,000 purchasing base station control and call-switching equipment that should ease network congestion and customers’ frustrations. He also said he did not think MobiTel’s business would be damage by the extended lapse in service.
Somchai Lertwisetthecrakul, the general manager of Cambodia Samart, a competing company, said he wasn’t sure what was wrong with MobiTel’s service, but he has also had to order equipment to increase his network’s call-handling capacity over the next year, as Cambodia’s lucrative telecommunication market is expected to continue flourishing.
Having to try several times to get a call through is “not a problem,” he said. It is to be expected. But recent congestion has been a call to action. “The network owner should improve the quality. If [callers] cannot get through after two or three times, this is a problem.”
Meanwhile, tempers flare.
Sitting in a restaurant with her friends, high school student Ong Prathna tried to make a call on her MobiTel cell phone, and got nothing.
“What has happened with my phone?” she said, shaking it furiously. “The last two weeks, it is difficult to call out. I tried many times to reach my friend’s phone, but I couldn’t, especially during the evening.”
Ong Prathna said she has never concerned herself with MobiTel’s prices, but she wants good service. “It’s more expensive than other phone companies, but I still use it. But the last two weeks, it is difficult to use. I called to ask the [MobiTel] staff, but they could not explain. I will switch to another phone service if the company’s owner continues to ignore this.”
“MobiTel is crazy, I just deposited money [into my phone’s calling account] by card, and it says it is not enough money to call my husband,” Oung Vannak, the executive director of the Women’s Affairs Association, said angrily. “[MobiTel] will collapse if its service has so many problems. We choose it because [it] is easy to use, but I don’t want to use it anymore because my career needs the best phone service, not trouble service.”
In contrast, 23-year-old student Vong Rotana exhibits more patience with MobiTel. “Every phone service has some troubles, but I still support MobiTel,” he said. “I love its program and coverage area.”