Competition Clicks in on Internet Services

The competition for Internet users in Phnom Penh is heating up with the opening of a new cyber center on Sihanouk Boule­vard.

In a move to lure customers away from the popular Cafe Asia on the ground floor of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia and other Internet centers, Khmer Web began charging $6 per hour to surf the Web when it opened Aug 9.

The lowest per-hour rate in the capital had been $8.

“We saw that in Phnom Penh, there were not that many people offering Internet services,” Kim San, one of the three owners of Khmer Web, said Thursday.

Because Khmer Web is housed in a relative’s building, Kim San and co-owners Khuy Chantha and Chan Mom do not have to pay rent, Kim San said, explaining how the three can undercut the competition’s prices.

Further, they do not employ staff. “I don’t need any staff. We do it all ourselves,” Kim San said.

The co-owners of Khmer Web are three of the nine students who graduated from Royal Phnom Penh University this year with a computer science degree —the first graduating class since the degree has been offered.

And the small, tight-knit group of newly graduated computer scientists are sticking together. In addition to the three running Khmer Web, the other six have agreed to volunteer when needed, Kim San said. “All our friends are willing to help out,” he said.

Meanwhile, the opening of Khmer Web already has brought hourly rates down around town.

Khmer Internet Development Services, which provides the technical support for Cafe Asia, runs two Internet centers in Phnom Penh.

At its newest cyber center at the Ettamogah Pub, KIDS is charging $6 per hour, according to Bill Herod, an adviser to KIDS. Ettamogah is located next to Khmer Web on Sihanouk.

“We had been considering lowering prices for a while, but the new center [facilitated] the change,” Herod said.

KIDS’ main center, located on the corner of Norodom Boule­vard and Street 178, has for some time offered a special $6 “happy hour” from 8 to 10 am, but its normal hourly rate is $8.

And Cafe Asia, which lures customers by serving up coffee, tea and snacks and being in a heavy traffic area under the FCCC along the riverfront, continues to charge $8.

However, Herod predicts its prices soon will come down to $6 as well.

Cafe Asia—run by KIDS and the FCCC—is looking into having a direct line installed, which would eliminate the need to go through a phone line and would be less expensive, Herod said. But even if the direct line does not come through, it’s likely rates will be lowered.

“We’ve been discussing it for some time. The profit margin would justify lowering the price,” Herod said.

Anthony Alderson, general manager of the FCCC, has said Cafe Asia’s profit margins are 30 percent.

Lidee Khmer near Phsar Thmei offers virtually free Internet access to Cambodian students, Herod noted.

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