Cambodian mobile operator Smart Axiata has launched the Smart WeChat Go SIM, a prepaid product for Chinese visitors. The product is a result of Smart’s partnership with the Chinese messaging and mobile payment services provider WeChat. Smart WeChat Go SIM is available in three variants. Visitors receive unlimited access to WeChat and the Lingcod TV app; they also receive up to 8 GB of data for internet access, calls to China, and on-net calls and SMS in Cambodia.
The SIM cards will be available for purchase in designated distribution points in China as well as in Cambodia, at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh International Airports. In Cambodia, the three SIM types will be priced at US $3.00, US $5.00 and US $7.00, respectively. Smart WeChat Go SIM users can manage their usage through WeChat’s self-help mini-program in the Chinese language.
By 2020, nearly 2 million tourists from China are expected to visit Cambodia. An offer that is aimed at them is likely a very good idea for Smart, which can expect to sell a lot of SIMs to this fast-growing target market. And partnering with WeChat, which more than dominates the Chinese mobile market, is a natural way of doing it.
WeChat is the international brand name for the platform known in Chinese as Weixin (meaning “micro-message”). Developed by Chinese multinational Tencent, it combines a messaging service, its own social media and a mobile money functionality. It has more than 1 billion monthly active users, and more than 90 percent of its subscribers are based in China. WeChat also has very sophisticated business-oriented variations of its service. The influence and penetration of this so-called “super-app” outstrips anything the other OTT messaging apps, including WhatsApp, can do. That makes it in many ways a desirable partner for any operator outside China that is interested in developing a vigorous relationship with Chinese nationals.
The one potential problem for some operators in partnering with WeChat is that users in China have accused the app of participating with the Chinese government in censorship and surveillance efforts, and there are concerns globally about WeChat’s security or lack thereof. This cautionary note is being heard, but in markets such as Cambodia, these issues may be outweighed by the revenue opportunities and by the need to maintain a close relationship with China. In other markets, such as in the West, partnership with WeChat is likely to be less appealing and perhaps less necessary in any case.