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Southeast Asia, explained

Why do mobile phone numbers outnumber humans in Cambodia?

An impoverished nation awash in SIM cards
Cambodia mobile phones 2012Enlarge
A Cambodian man talks on his mobile phone in Phnom Penh on June 24, 2011. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambodia is among Southeast Asia's most impoverished nations where, according to the United Nations, the majority of the population gets by on just $1 a day.

But that hasn't stopped them from buying mobile phones like mad. As the Phnom Penh Post reports, the country has somehow managed to reach 20 million sales in SIM cards, the little chips inserted into cell phones that are encoded with unique phone numbers.

That's a wild statistic considering that the population stands at 14 million.

How is this possible?

For starters, SIM cards in Cambodia sell for just $2. Basic cell phone models run for about $20 and users can simply pop their SIM into a new handset when they upgrade.

Those prices aren't just a reflection of Cambodia's meager incomes. They're the outcome of intense competition among Cambodia's service providers. The loosely regulated and oversaturated market had, at one point, a whopping nine providers jockeying for customers.

And, finally, Cambodia's mobile phone mania is also owed to its decrepit infrastructure. As the CEO of the Cambodian provider Hello recently told the Phnom Penh Post, the "fixed line infrastructure in Cambodia is quite poor. So, this country has sort of leap-frogged technologies and gone straight to mobile."

All of that amounts to a telecommunications landscape marked by $2 cell phone numbers, effortless handset upgrades and cheap rates. Now don't you despise your U.S. carrier just a little more after reading this?

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/cambodia-mobile-phones

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