Ministry: Cheaper, Approved Internet Calls in Testing Stage

A less-expensive and better- quality Internet-based overseas telephone system will begin operating in the coming weeks, government officials said Tuesday.

Lar Narath, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, said rates charged by the Voice Overseas In­ternet Protocol will be cheaper than those of private or state-owned services, although exact fees have not yet been determined. “The new Internet-based overseas phone call system is being tested,” he said. “I don’t know yet how much it will cost, but it will be cheap.”

Details of the contract between the government and the AZ Group, which Lar Narath said has spent $7 million building the phone system, have not been released. AZ’s director, Ung Bun Hoav, 32, is the CPP’s No 8 candidate in Takeo province in next month’s national elections. AZ is best known for obtaining the rights to charge vehicles tolls on National Route 4.

The VOIP was expected to be­gin operating last October, until a partner in Cambodia’s privately run international calling gateway charged the government with violating its contract.

“The issuing of a new license undermines contracts signed by the Royal Government of Cambo­dia and sends disturbing signals to other investors, either existing or new,” wrote MA Zaman, a vice president at Millicom Interna­tional Cellular in Luxembourg.

Millicom owns Royal Telecam International and is a partner with the Cambodia-based Royal Group. Together they run Tele2, the 007 international phone gateway.

Royal Group Director Kith Meng could not be reached for comment on the government’s approval of AZ’s gateway.

Koy Kimsea, another undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommun­ica­tions, said Tuesday the ministry is planning to crack down on the numerous Phnom Penh Internet cafes that provide unlicensed overseas calls. He declined to discuss the matter further.

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