Regulator to Review Minimum Prices for Calls

An official at the Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC) said Wednesday that the body plans to review and possibly lower the current minimum price per call after it recently ordered the country’s seven mobile phone operators to abide by a law that sets minimum call prices.

“We are going to start now and begin studying the market prices. We really have to lower the floor price,” said Lay Marivo, a member of the TRC, but he did not give an estimate of the new minimum price.

Currently, the set minimum price for calls made on the same network is 4.5 cents per minute, and for cross-network calls it is 5.95 cents per minute—prices telecommunication executives say is too high.

Mobile phone operators have offered lucrative “top-up” bonus promotions of between 100 percent and 500 percent, leading to a price war among the country’s mobile companies.

However, last month, the Council of Ministers approved a directive that allowed the regulator to implement a 2009 law, Prakas 232, which sets the minimum prices of 4.5 cents and 5.95 cents per phone minute, and limits the bonuses to not more than 50 percent and to a limited number of deals per year.

Mobile operators were informed of the order last week and told to remove any advertising, products and materials that violate the law by today.

As of Wednesday evening, nearly all operators had posted an announcement on their website or Facebook pages saying that they had either always abided by the law or had now changed their deals as ordered.

Mr. Marivo said that while the order was made to allow for fair competition in the telecoms market, it was also issued to increase government tax revenue from the operators.

“How can the state pay for civil servants and want to raise salaries for workers” when there is not enough cash he asked, referring additional questions to the Ministry of Economics and Finance.

Mey Vann, director-general of the Ministry of Economics and Finance, declined to comment.

Last week, Smart, which is owned by Malaysian telecommunications company Axiata Group Bhd, reported a 36 percent increase in revenue during the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year.

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