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PHNOM PENH, July 8 (Reuters) - Cambodia's Smart Axiata said it had begun 5G trials in partnership with China's Huawei Technologies on Monday and could start rolling out the mobile network by this year.
Smart Axiata, part of Malaysia's Axiata Group Behard, serves half of the 16 million population of the Southeast Asian nation, whose government signed a memorandum of understanding in April with Huawei to help develop its 5G telecoms system.
"It will not be a nationwide coverage from day one, it will be hot spot first, it will be an urban areas first and then we will gradually expand," Smart Axiata's chief executive Thomas Hundt told reporters after the trial.
Hundt said Smart Axiata will probably invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years in fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks and it will need the government's approval before launching commercially.
"I very much hope that this year in 2019, we can bring 5G to commercial operation but ... it's not entirely on us, we are ready, we could start in a couple of weeks from a technique standpoint, no problem but we need obviously (a license from) the head of the government," Hundt said.
Huawei's Chief Technology Officer Aaron Wang said as of Monday, the Chinese company had 50 5G commercial contracts and shipped 150,000 base stations worldwide.
The United States has accused Huawei of stealing American intellectual property and violating Iran sanctions.
It has launched a lobbying effort to convince U.S. allies to keep Huawei out of 5G infrastructure, saying the company could spy on customers.
Huawei has denied the allegations. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alexander Smith)