5G is not just for wealthy nations. Southeast Asian rivals Cambodia and Vietnam are both pursuing aggressive 5G plans, with Cambodia set to steal a march on its neighbor by launching the first service.

Smart Axiata, Cambodia's biggest operator, has completed 5G trials and is awaiting government approval to roll out a network and offer service. 

Following an agreement signed in April between the government and the Chinese vendor, the operator has been running a trial with Huawei for several months. Same goes to other two operators, Metfone and Cellcard.

According to Smart CEO – Thomas Hundt, Smart Axiata needs government allocation of spectrum and licence before launching. Rival Cellcard will also start 5G trials by end of the year, according to Telecommunications Regulator of Cambodia.

5G service looks like a glorified field trial. However, it could be classify the first in Asean. Singapore taking the lead on the licensing process, it would need to start service in the first quarter of 2020 to claim first in the region, Hundt said.

Vietnam is moving indifferent path. In contrast with Huawei's central role in Cambodia, Vietnam will do away with Huawei. It has not officially announced, but Vietnamese operators like those in Japan, are not engaging with Huawei and have been conducting trials with Nokia and Ericsson.


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