Myanmar telecom bidding war heats up

Myanmar telephoneThe Myanmar telecom bidding war has entered its final moments with industry giants from Ireland, Malaysia, India, Norway and Singapore among the competitors scrambling to meet application deadlines for two fresh licenses by February 8, the Myanmar Times reported.

One of the industry’s last true greenfield opportunities, setting up a telecom network in Myanmar is considered a high-growth potential investment due to the country’s largely untapped population of 60 million. Official statistics predict mobile penetration in Myanmar is around 8 per cent, extremely low even in compared to Laos at 64 per cent and Cambodia at 57 per cent.

Eyeing the telephony revolution currently underway in Africa, mobile phones are likely to leapfrog fixed-line networks dramatically once regulations are established. The licenses are being issued in a concerted effort to exponentially increase mobile penetration to 80 per cent by 2015.

Among the competitors for the two lucrative licenses are Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel; Irish company Digicel; Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (SingTel); Malaysia’s Axiata Group; Singapore’s ST Telemedia Pte; and Norway’s Telenor ASA.

The entrance of such high-caliber bidders has evoked an almost political battle, with national leaders in telecoms facing off.

India’s Bharti is the world’s fourth largest mobile phone operator in terms of number of subscribers; SingTel, the biggest telecom company in Southeast Asia; and Axiata, Malaysia’s largest cellular operator by market value.

The licenses are expected to be issued in June and carry a contract duration of up to 20 years. Two more licenses are expected to offered following this round of bidding.