Firm Told to Drop GSM Label

The Ministry of Post and Tele­communications has ordered Cam­bodia-Shinawatra to stop using the GSM designation for its new digital system.

In a Monday letter to the company, Minister So Khun stated that the company’s license allows the firm to use “digital system of DCS-1800” and not GSM.

“In order to avoid the impact on other companies, I request you to correct [this],” So Khun wrote.

Shinawatra declined to comment on the re­cord.

The Thai-Cambodian joint venture’s new system is a digital cellular system that uses radio frequencies. A digital phone offers clearer connections than a non-digital phone and users can hook up their phone to a laptop computer and access the Internet.

Inside the phone handset is a computer card called the Sub­scriber Identity Module, or SIM card. It is personalized for the user and identifies the ac­count to the network.

According to the letter from So Khun, the company’s license, signed in June 1997, stipulates that the firm would use the Dig­ital Cell System on the 1800 Meg­a­­hertz frequency range, known in the industry as DCS-1800.

But since the Thai-Cambodian joint venture launched its digital system in April it has advertised its system as GSM-1800.

GSM, which stands for Global System for Mobile communications, utilizes the same digital technology as DCS and allows subscribers to use their phones anywhere where a “roaming” agreement exists between the sub­scriber’s company and the local provider. A phone from France could work in China if an agreement is in place.

According to documents ob­tained from the Internet by an advertising firm representing Shinawatra, DCS-1800 was re­named GSM-1800 by the industry. It is not clear when the technology was renamed.

No officials from the ministry could be reached to explain why no complaint was made when the company first launched its system at the beginning of April.

Although several other tele­communications companies op­er­ating in Cambodia have been granted licenses for digital systems, only one other company, MobiTel, has begun operations. The joint venture between the local Royal Group, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Millicom Luxembourg launched its digital system “CamGSM” in March 1997.

MobiTel General Manager Iain Williams said Wednesday his company had complained to the ministry “indirectly” over Shina­­watra’s use of the term “GSM.” He would not elaborate.

Williams said there has not been any direct negative affect on his company from Shinawatra’s use of the term GSM, but maintained it would confuse customers, who might believe the phones for the two systems are interchangeable.

CamGSM operates on the 900 megahertz frequency. According to the Internet documents from a Web site on GSM technology, handsets can only move from one frequency to another if they are dual band. Otherwise, although they can use the same SIM card, they must use a different handset.

“It protects us if our customers want to go to Shinawatra and discover the system is not interchangeable,” Williams said.

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