Thursday, August 17, 2017

MPT picks up speed in telecoms race

State-owned telco Myanma Posts and Telecommunications lost its monopoly on the telecoms market last year, joining a three-horse race with international entrants Ooredoo and Telenor. As the incumbent, MPT was first out of the starting gate.

KSGM managing director Takashi Nagashima. Photo: Catherine TrautweinKSGM managing director Takashi Nagashima. Photo: Catherine Trautwein

After signing a partnership with Japan’s KDDI Corporation and Sumitomo Corporation, it has quickly moved to modernise its operations and launch new tariff deals. Its latest mobile plan, Swe Thahar, cuts voice and SMS prices and changes the way MPT charges customers for internet usage, from by-the-minute to by-the-megabyte.

KDDI Summit Global Myanmar (KSGM) managing director Takashi Nagashima, MPT general manager Khin Maung Tun, chief technical officer Kenichi Ono and other company officials sat down with a small panel of journalists including The Myanmar Times on January 11 to discuss the challenges and opportunities of MPT’s plans to increase services for millions of Myanmar people while trimming prices to compete. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

How many subscribers does MPT have now?

We have nearly 11 million currently active SIM customers. After the joint operation, 5 million SIM cards were distributed to the market. We don’t know how many SIM cards we sold before the joint operation. Among the 5 million SIM cards we distributed, average activation rate would be 90 percent. If people don’t use them for a while, [SIM cards] expire. So now including those who

already lost their right to use [SIMs], we have 11 million activated users.

Why has MPT decided not to match competitors’ prices under its new Swe Thahar plan?

Not only in Myanmar, but in other countries telecom markets were opened and new operators challenged incumbent carriers with lower prices because their network coverage and more wasn’t big enough in comparison to the incumbent’s.

We don’t think we can charge more than others because we’re incumbent. We think we have to provide our service at affordable prices. MPT is still a part of the government, and has a big responsibility to Myanmar.

In Laos, Cambodia, and India, telecom operators started price wars early on. Then they can’t keep investing in their network. A large area still remains on 2G. It means the failure of the liberalisation of the market itself. If that kind of situation happens, the customer suffers the most. MPT thinks that in Myanmar, the nationwide network has not been completed yet. Our first priority should be to establish a nationwide network, and next, to provide services at affordable prices. We would like to contribute to Myanmar customers by providing better services, or new services. We should not be satisfied with higher prices than competitors, but we need to keep improving and providing better customer experiences. If we go now into a “price war”, we are worried that we cannot invest in area expansion and other necessary services.