Telenor became the third mobile operator in Myanmar after launching services in Mandalay on September 27, as the company positions itself to serve the mass market in an increasingly competitive telecoms landscape.
Like its rivals, the Norway-based telco has faced challenges in receiving permissions to build towers as well as constructing them in the rainy season, leading to its decision to delay launching in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon until early October.
Telenor has a commitment to launch services in Myanmar before October 5 – a deadline it will meet in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. However, its Yangon service will not launch until about a week after the deadline, said Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg.
“The reason we are delayed is partly related to building permits. The government has done a very good job supporting us in terms of building permits, but Yangon for was instance very slow in terms of giving out build permits,” he said.
“And we also emphasised to the government it is important for Telenor to have good quality before we launch. We cannot sell and charge for something that isn’t real,” he said.
The firm has informed the regulator in writing about the delay, Mr Furberg said at a press conference on September 25.
Meanwhile, the residents of Myanmar’s second city were able to officially purchase SIMs on September 27.
More than 1500 Mandalay shops and nine proprietary Telenor stores started selling the telco’s K1500 SIM cards on September 27. Though Mr Furberg declined to disclose the exact number of SIMs Telenor provided to stores, he said the figure was in the millions and is more than enough to meet consumers’ needs without resorting to the black market.
The order in which service will come to Myanmar’s cities and rural areas depends on the state of the Telenor network there, according to Mr Furberg, as the company emphasises good coverage above all else. Yangon’s tower build has been hampered by heavy rains and regulatory delays.
“While it’s been raining and raining and raining in Yangon, it’s been sunshine in Mandalay,” Mr Furberg said.
Telenor has also taken a mass-market approach partly by using a mix of 2G and 3G coverage, in contrast to Ooredoo’s 3G-only approach. It will charge K25 per minute to make calls to anyone in Myanmar, while messaging will cost K15 per SMS.
Mr Furberg also downplayed concerns that a mass-market approach could mean missing out on the most lucrative subscribers, saying the firm is working to bringing telecoms to those who previously did not have access.
“We actually see the mass market as the most lucrative segment. We came to this market to be part of bringing mobile phones to those that did not have mobile phones,” he said.
“Our focus has never been on the people in Yangon that already have big, fat smartphones and were able to afford a SIM card for US$200.”
The company is also offering two different types of internet plans, one aimed at users who make use of less bandwidth-intense services such as Facebook, email and Viber, and the other aimed at heavier users who want to stream content.
It's My Internet plan is standard, delivering internet speeds of up to 300kbps for K6 a megabyte, while its Smart Internet plan costs K10 a megabyte for speeds capped at 2mpbs. Both plans have pack upgrades that give mobile users that pay more upfront for better deals on more megabytes of data.
Mr Furberg also highlighted the firm’s add-ons, such as free Wikipedia and its partnership with Facebook, as well as its My Tune music service.
The telco aims to cover more than 90pc of Myanmar in five years, with its products sold across 100,000 points of sale.