In response to the Myanmar government’s recent plan to invite foreign investors into the country, four operators have shown interest in bidding for two national mobile licences in Myanmar. These four operators include Singaporean operators SingTel and ST Telemedia, Malaysia’s Axiata and Nordic group Telenor.
Following such vigour, four licences will be issued by June. According to the government, each will run for 20 years with options to renew, and a draft telecommunications law will be put before the Myanmar parliament during the first half of 2013. These foreign investments aim to boost mobile coverage up to 80% by 2016. Myanmar currently has around 5.5 million subscribers which make up a mobile penetration of 9%.
According to Axiata, which sees high mobile market value in Myanmar, it is a logical and interesting market while representing a strategic market due to its high growth potential. SingTel wants to maintain an interest in investment opportunities in under-penetrated markets such as Myanmar, whereas a Telenor spokesman said that they are well-positioned to contribute in developing a successful mobile industry in Myanmar. To date, Myanmar’s mobile sector has been controlled by the state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications.
According to consulting firm Thura Swiss Ltd., foreign investors are allowed to set up a hundred percent foreign-owned company or a joint venture with a Myanmar partner. As a result, Taiwan handset vendor HTC is also looking to tap into the country and this could help drive the company’s growth in the medium term. To attract local buyers, HTC has developed a new input system for Burmese characters. Not only that, Thura Swiss also mentioned that if more licenses are issued, this could lead to higher competition among carriers, thus providing free SIM cards for users (which currently cost US$100 each). As a result, this creates a higher demand for mobile phones.
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