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The Deadly Face Off Over 5G in Cambodia Between U.S. And China

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5G
Cellcard, one of the leading mobile operaters in Cambodia, advertises a 5G network system, during a Digital Cambodia 2019 event, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 15, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer). VOA

For techies and phone geeks, Digital Cambodia 2019 was the place to be.

More than a dozen high school students clustered at the booth for Cellcard, Cambodia’s leading mobile operator. Under the booth’s 5G sign, they played video games on their phones.

Hak Kimheng, a ninth grade student in Phnom Penh, said his mom bought him a Samsung smartphone a few months ago, when he moved to the capital city from nearby Kandal province to live with his uncle while attending school. Like moms everywhere, she thought the smartphone would help her stay in touch with her son.

But smartphones being smartphones and kids being kids, Hak Kimheng, 16, has used it to set up an account on Facebook, Cambodia’s favorite social media platform. He’s also downloaded Khmer Academy, a tutoring app filled with math, physics and chemistry lessons.

And for one hour a day, Hak Kimheng watches soccer on the YouTube app he downloaded. While it’s better than nothing, the internet connection is “slow … and the video image is not clear,” he said. “I want it to be faster. … It’ll be good to have 5G.”

Not far from the Cellcard booth, Cambodian government officials, ASEAN telecom and IT ministers, businesspeople, telecom and tech company representatives gathered for the opening ceremonies of Digital Cambodia 2019. The event, which ran from March 15 to March 17, attracted more than 100 speakers from throughout Southeast Asia, high level officials, businesspeople, researchers and telecom company representatives.

The discussions focused on 5G, which, with speeds as much as 100 times faster than 4G, will mean better soccer viewing for Hak Kimheng and faster connections for all users. But 5G will also be central to a world of smart cities filled with smart homes and offices replete with devices connected to the “internet of things”humming along amid torrents of personal, business and official data.

‘A milestone year’

David Li, CEO of Cambodian operations for the Chinese company, Huawei, which is facing challenges over security from the U.S., spoke first, promising to “help Cambodia obtain better digital technology to improve social productivity and national economy.”

Huawei logos and products are seen advertised at a local phone shop, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer)
Huawei logos and products are seen advertised at a local phone shop, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 14, 2019. (Sun Narin/VOA Khmer). VOA

Government ministers, one from finance and economy and one from posts and telecommunication, listened as Li continued, pointing out that Huawei Technologies Cambodia launched in 1999. “We have been operating 2G, 3G, 4G, and now we’re heading toward 5G,” he said.

“Currently we are the only industry vendor that can provide the intertwined 5G system. I believe this year 2019 will be a milestone year for 5G in Cambodia,” Li said.

While this next generation of mobile networks will take years to roll out, the U.S. and China are in a race over whose technology will set the standards for 5G networks, something which will have immediate commercial value and carry longer term strategic implications for developing the dominant platform for 6G.

Citing concern that Huawei is, like all Chinese companies, linked to the Beijing government, the U.S. has been urging allies not to let Huawei build their 5G networks. But in countries like Thailand, which is Cambodia’s neighbor and a U.S. ally, Huawei is building and testing a 5G network because authorities said its low cost trumped U.S. pressure.

Huawei has long maintained it doesn’t provide back doors for the Chinese government, pointing out the lack of evidence to support the allegations, according to Bloomberg.

William Carter, deputy director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said earlier this month that any country doing business with Huawei on 5G will have to deal with the risk of Chinese influence.

“And the question will be to what extent is that concern enough to overcome the price advantage and the service advantages and the integrated financing advantages doing business with Huawei,” he said.

Rich market

As more private businesses and government services move toward cashless payment and online data access, Cambodia is emerging as a rich market for 5G telecoms. Approximately 13.6 million people, or 82 percent of Cambodians, use the internet, and about 7 million use Facebook, the number of mobile subscriptions is around 19.5 million by January 2019, or 120 percent penetration, according to the Ministry of Posts.

Sok Puthyvuth, secretary of state at the posts and telecommunication told VOA Khmer that Cambodia is eager for 5G, urging private companies, including mobile operators and internet companies, “to make 5G available across the country.”

FILE - A man looks at his smartphone at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Oct. 23, 2018.
A man looks at his smartphone at a coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Oct. 23, 2018. VOA

Thomas Hundt, CEO of Smart Axiata, one of Cambodia’s mobile telecommunications operators, told VOA Khmer only that the company is preparing for a 5G rollout, because users’ data consumption is overwhelming the 4.5G network. “We see an immediate need to come out with the next evolution of technology … at some point this year.”

Cellcard CEO Ian Watson, said the company is targeting a commercial launch of 5G services in the second quarter of 2019.

Tram IvTek, Cambodia’s minister of Posts and Telecommunications said at the opening ceremony of Digital Cambodia that the government “is strongly committed to connecting the country and to ensure the benefits of ICT (information and communications technology) reach the remotest corners as well as the most vulnerable communities” by 2020.

Aun Pornmoniroth, minister of economy and finance in a March 12 workshop on Cambodia’s digital economy, suggested it will take “five to 10 years or more to set up a complete digital economy and turn Cambodia’s economy into a technological leader.”

Meas Po, undersecretary of state at Ministry of Post, said the government has yet to decide which company it will partner with for building the 5G infrastructure but it has not ruled out Huawei or other Chinese companies. “In our country, we have our protective system, in other countries, they have theirs. We don’t allow anyone to just freely hack our data.”

Protecting privacy

Smart Axiata’s Hundt said his company wanted to a partner that would “guarantee to us that the equipment is solid and sound [and] our users’ data is safeguarded and the network is fully secured from cyber-security perspectives.”

Nguon Somaly, who earned a master’s degree in law and technology at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia, has written extensively on data privacy in Cambodia. She contends Cambodian social media users don’t have the data privacy concerns of users in the U.S. and Europe.

Also Read: Beware! If You Work In Shifts, You Are At A Greater Of Heart Diseases

“Cambodian youths don’t really care about privacy [on social media], but people in [the] EU are concerned about their data privacy,” said Somaly, referring to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which restricts how personal data is collected and handled.

“That is money and it can be analyzed and generate income,” Somaly said. “China is not a free country and privacy is not their priority. Their priority is to generate business opportunities and income.”  (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s how China Invaded India with Its Technology

Chinese invasion decimates Indian mobile players, automakers next?

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China has slowly but strategically spread its roots in the Indian IT/technology and allied sectors in India. Pixabay

BY NISHANT ARORA

The Great Wall has slowly but strategically spread its roots in the Indian IT/technology and allied sectors in India, and there is no stopping the dragon which has only grown fierce — threatening industries after industries across the spectrum as India celebrates its 71th Republic Day.

From smartphones to automobile/electric vehicles, from digital payments and consumer electronics to social media, Chinese companies have created massive ripples in the country in the last couple of years, while American giants like Amazon and Facebook/WhatsApp face the political heat.

China, which is a fastest-growing trillion-dollar economy with a current GDP of $14.14 trillion is on the path to become a $20 trillion economy by 2024 and India is its “sweet spot” — with millions of consumers buying Chinese goods which has decimated domestic players in certain sectors.

Technology
Xiaomi, a Chinese company has also established itself well in the country. Pixabay

Take the case of smartphone industry. According to Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Research, Chinese smartphone brands captured 72 per cent of the market in 2019 compared to 60 per cent a year ago.

Behemoth like the BBK Group (the parent company of OPPO, Vivo, Realme and OnePlus brands) captured 37 per cent market share while Xiaomi (along with Redmi and POCO brands) came second at 28 per cent.

Led by Xiaomi and BBK Group, the Chinese brands have invested heavily in manufacturing devices and accessories in India.

Xiaomi currently has seven smartphone manufacturing plants in India in partnership with Taiwanese multinational electronics company Foxconn and Singapore-based technological manufacturer Flex Ltd.

More than 99 per cent of smartphones that are sold in India are manufactured locally. Across these seven plants, Xiaomi has employed more than 25,000 people.

Xiaomi also locally sources and assembles PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly) in India. It has invested in setting up smart TV manufacturing plant in partnership with Dixon Technologies in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. The company last year infused Rs 3,500 crore into its Indian business unit.

Vivo has committed Rs 7,500 crore as part of its India expansion plan while Chinese company TCL is investing Rs 2,200 crore in Tirupati for plants that will produce mobile handsets and TV screens.

Amid the onslaught, where do you see domestic players like Micromax, Intex, Lava and Karbonn (known as ‘MILK’ brand)?

According to Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India, while we cannot rule out any player making a comeback, especially in such a dynamic market like India, it looks nearly impossible for Indian mobile phones brands to win back any relevant portion of the market.

“China-based brands have been in India for almost 5 years plus now. In this time, apart from snatching the market share almost entirely from the other brands, they have gained immense knowledge about the workings of the India market in terms of consumer thinking, preferences, channel dynamics and marketing interventions,” Singh told IANS.

The Chinese brands are continuously committing resources and investments in all these key areas.

Technology
As China keeps introducing its technology in India, automobile makers will be affected. Pixabay

“Moreover, with more than 3/4th of the market being with 5 players, it is becoming increasingly challenging for any new or old brands like Indian brands to attempt any sustained comeback,” Singh elaborated.

So what are the options for the Indian smartphone players?

“Indian brands can surely look at the feature phone segment, where almost all major China-based brands have chosen to stay away from (expect Shenzhen-based Transsion Group which is the leader). Also, their brand salience remains strong with that consumer segment and Tier II and III markets,” said the IDC executive.

Cut to the Auto Expo 2020 and you will have a better understanding of how Chinese companies muscle their ways.

Top Chinese firms such as SAIC (owner of MG Motors), BYD (maker of electric buses and batteries), Great Wall (which is the biggest SUV maker in China) and FAW Haima, among others, have reserved nearly 20 per cent space in the annual jamboree of carmakers and industry leaders, at a time when the Indian automobile industry is going through a severe slowdown.

Bucking the slowdown trend, SAIC has recorded healthy sales ever since it launched the Hector SUV. At present, the carmaker’s first offering SUV Hector has an order book of 20,000 bookings. It has till date sold nearly 16,000 units of Hector since its launch in July 2019.

The Chinese automobile major has now launched its first electric offering called ZS EV, at a starting price of Rs 20.88 lakh. The company said that it has secured an overwhelming response for the new-age electric SUV, with over 2,800 bookings in 27 days.

To let its EVs run smoothly in India, MG Motor India is building a five-way EV charging ecosystem in association with major domain players.

China’s leading EV company, Sunra, has expressed interest in setting up a factory in the country as it sees India emerging as the world’s biggest market for electric bikes in the next four to five years.

The EV firm has partnered with 16 private companies in Delhi. Nearly six e-bike models of Sunra are under the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) test and two of its models are available in some of the showrooms.

Also Read- New Stretchable Battery Can Safely Store Power for Wearables

According to a TechSci Research report, electric vehicle market in India is forecast to reach nearly $2 billion by the financial year 2023.

As the Indian government firms up its EV plans, Chinese companies have already set their eyes on the EV sector roadmap in the country. (IANS)

One response to “Here’s how China Invaded India with Its Technology”

  1. This is a win-win relationship.Is India losing anything? Indians get job, foreign investments, latest technology from China. Do you think local Indian companies have the latest technology? Of course not. Its time for India to open up more, absorb these technologies and then go for home grown solutions. In short do to China what Chinese did to West.