The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has lost at least 35 percent of its overseas-calling customers since the addition of a second, private international gateway in Cambodia late last year, prompting the ministry to take measures to recover its customers.
Most of the customer loss has come from “fair competition” from Tele2, but some has come from illegal or unlicensed actions by Royal Telecam International Co Ltd, according to a letter from Telecommunications Minister So Khun to Prime Minister Hun Sen obtained by reporters.
RTI is a private international gateway company run by the Royal Group, a partner in MobiTel.
The ministry has imposed restrictions on RTI, which operates under the trademark “Tele2.” Chief among those restrictions is the recall of 54 machines, which divert international calls through Tele2’s 007 network, that were distributed to businesses, hotels and international NGOs.
These so-called Dataflex machines were transferring the traffic and profits from the ministry’s own 001 international calling network, which was illegal and unlicensed, the letter states.
In his letter to Hun Sen, So Khun said RTI General Manager Ronny Melander was employing unfair business practices by using the machines.
Reached by telephone, Melander declined comment, referring all questions to Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng.
Kith Meng said all 54 of the Dataflex diverters had been recalled and would not be used again. He called the controversy a “misunderstanding.”
The Dataflex machines were illegal, said Koy Kim Sea, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications undersecretary of state. Customers who dialed 001 would unwittingly be routed through 007 and given a 5 percent discount, he said.
In mid-July, So Khun ordered MobiTel to stop the distribution of its CamPlus international calling cards, which he said were also unlicensed.
Negotiations over whether MobiTel may use the calling cards continue, Kith Meng and Koy Kim Sea said.
Kith Meng said Monday the real issue for his company was the drop in interconnection fee rates mandated by a government regulation adopted last week.
Starting Sept 1, all companies will charge $0.01 instead of $0.07 per minute to deliver calls to one another. This means a drop in profits for MobiTel, which handles the most calls in Cambodia.
These interconnect fees were lowered just one month after the ministry said it would no longer pay interconnect fees to private mobile phone companies like MobiTel.
Kith Meng on Monday repeated statements made earlier this month by MobiTel General Manager David Spriggs, threatening to cancel a possible $20 million investment if the interconnect fees regulation was approved.
So Khun asked that Royal Group’s foreign partners be summoned to Cambodia to answer questions about the CamPlus cards and the Dataflex machines.
So far he has received no response from either M A Zaman, senior executive vice president of Millicom International Cellular, SA, or David Harris, director general for Subao Telecom and owner of RTI.
Both are based in Sweden.