Vodafone, China Mobile eye Myanmar

Myanmar cell phoneTelecom giants Vodafone (UK) and China Mobile are among the 22 bidders for the license for Myanmar’s first nationwide mobile phone network.

The world’s two biggest telecom operators will face stiff competition to get into an untapped market of 64 million people, including a fund backed by billionaire investor George Soros, submitting rival bids.

Vodafone has teamed up with China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom company, to bid for one of two new licences, while Soros and Denis O’Brien, the Irish owner of the Digicel telecoms business, have combined forces with Serge Pun, a Burmese company, to bid for a contract.

Other companies competing for a license include China Telecom, SingTel, Telenor (Norway), Millicom (Luxembourg), Orange (UK-France), Telekomunikasi Indonesia, Axiata Group (Malaysia), AIS (Thailand) and Bharti Airtel (India).

The winners of the 15-year contracts will be announced in late June. It is expected that a new network will require around $2 billion in investment, in addition to the costs of the license.

As per the end of 2012, 5.4 million of Myanmar’s 60 million population had a mobile phone subscription, which makes a mobile penetration of 9 per cent, according to government figures. The Myanmar government wants to increase the penetration to 80 per cent by 2016.