Myanmar poised for mobile phone boom

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Myanmar has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration worldwide ahead of North Korea

One of the world’s last remaining greenfield telecom opportunities may just be open for business as Myanmar continues with its often unfathomable pace of reform.

The exact plans are unclear at the moment, but insiders have said that the telecom sector could be the first to benefit from privatisation plans with announcements being made soon, Reuters reported.

“We’re going to finish it soon, we really cannot wait,” Kyaw Soe, a senior official at the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs, told Reuters.

“It’s closely related to economic growth of our nation, so this is a priority sector,” he said.

In a country where owning a SIM card is a luxury, it comes to no surprise that few people even own personal phones. Infrastructure is poor and data service costs are prohibitively high.

Five years ago, a personal SIM card cost $1,000, while today it is sold for about $200. Visitors can rent cards at the airport on arrival, but many Burmese can only afford one-time SIMs that are costly for the average wage earner and expire after one month.

Myanmar has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration rate in the world, just ahead of North Korea, and its 60 million people are so removed from the developments of smart phone technology that the idea of email and data services on phones is an alien concept.

Usage is extremely low, at just 1.24 per cent of the population in 2010, compared with 64 per cent in Laos, 57 per cent in Cambodia and more than 100 per cent in Thailand and Malaysia where individual ownership of multiple phones pushes usage above population levels, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The Myanmar population is due for a close encounter soon if reformists continue with their ostensible predilection for welcoming investors.

Kyaw Soe said that a total of four operating licenses would be granted; two for Myanmar companies and two for foreign firms, with 4G services targeted as early as 2013.

Plans to implement a regulation and privatise the state-owned operator are also being discussed.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration worldwide ahead of North Korea

One of the world’s last remaining greenfield telecom opportunities may just be open for business as Myanmar continues with its often unfathomable pace of reform.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Myanmar has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration worldwide ahead of North Korea

One of the world’s last remaining greenfield telecom opportunities may just be open for business as Myanmar continues with its often unfathomable pace of reform.

The exact plans are unclear at the moment, but insiders have said that the telecom sector could be the first to benefit from privatisation plans with announcements being made soon, Reuters reported.

“We’re going to finish it soon, we really cannot wait,” Kyaw Soe, a senior official at the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs, told Reuters.

“It’s closely related to economic growth of our nation, so this is a priority sector,” he said.

In a country where owning a SIM card is a luxury, it comes to no surprise that few people even own personal phones. Infrastructure is poor and data service costs are prohibitively high.

Five years ago, a personal SIM card cost $1,000, while today it is sold for about $200. Visitors can rent cards at the airport on arrival, but many Burmese can only afford one-time SIMs that are costly for the average wage earner and expire after one month.

Myanmar has the second-lowest mobile phone penetration rate in the world, just ahead of North Korea, and its 60 million people are so removed from the developments of smart phone technology that the idea of email and data services on phones is an alien concept.

Usage is extremely low, at just 1.24 per cent of the population in 2010, compared with 64 per cent in Laos, 57 per cent in Cambodia and more than 100 per cent in Thailand and Malaysia where individual ownership of multiple phones pushes usage above population levels, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The Myanmar population is due for a close encounter soon if reformists continue with their ostensible predilection for welcoming investors.

Kyaw Soe said that a total of four operating licenses would be granted; two for Myanmar companies and two for foreign firms, with 4G services targeted as early as 2013.

Plans to implement a regulation and privatise the state-owned operator are also being discussed.

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