The world added 87 million new mobile subscribers this past quarter, with nearly 6 percent of them coming from Myanmar, making it the fourth-fastest growing market on earth, according to Ericsson’s Q3 2015 Mobility Report.
Mobile subscribers globally for the third quarter came to roughly 7.3 billion, in line with the global population. Meanwhile, mobile subscriptions in Southeast Asia and Oceania will cross the 1 billion mark before 2016 and hit about 1.3 billion by 2021.
After a banner year for telecoms in Myanmar, the country has about 36 million mobile subscribers – up by 5 million over last quarter, the report said.
Myanmar came in fourth place for net additions this quarter, trailing only giant neighbours India and China – which added 13 million subscribers and 7 million customers apiece – and the United States, whose base increased by 6 million.
It beat Nigeria, which rounded out the top five and whose market expanded by 4 million net subscribers this quarter.
Myanmar’s telecommunications industry has changed dramatically over the past two years, enabling millions to get connected and the country’s subscriber rate to skyrocket.
Though the sector operated for decades under a monopoly held by state-owned incumbent Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), users can now choose between three firms for coverage, with Telenor Myanmar and Ooredoo Myanmar having switched services on in 2014. All offer SIM cards for K1500 each.
As the price of SIMs has come down, so have those of smartphones – and many in Myanmar have taken the leap straight into 3G services and more advanced technology.
Ericsson’s Mobility Report for Southeast Asia and Oceania this quarter said the region’s smartphone subscription rate currently stood at about 350 million, with that figure set to more than double to 850 million in 2021.
“As the availability, affordability, and desirability of smartphones has increased, smartphone penetration in the region has surged,” the report said. “By 2021, smartphones are expected to make up close to 70pc of total mobile phone subscriptions.”
Smartphone subscriptions penetration in Myanmar, according to Ericsson analysis and World Urbanisation Prospects 2014 from the United Nations, is currently around 30pc and will more than double by 2018.
Local operators have reported high levels of engagement with data.
Ooredoo Myanmar has 80 percent smartphones on its network and their usage is over 650 megabytes per month on average, spokesperson Thiri Kyar Nyo said yesterday.
Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of Telenor Myanmar users are on 3G or 4G phones, while 57pc of its subscribers use data monthly, as previously reported by The Myanmar Times.
U Myo San, an executive engineer for MPT, said that at the end of October the operator had 12 million data users.
Though Myanmar has not yet moved on to 4G technology, Ericsson sees 40pc of all mobile customers in Southeast Asia and Oceania progressing to LTE/5G technology over the next six years. Ericsson predicts Myanmar’s portion of LTE subscriptions compared with its total user base to rise from zero to single digits by 2018.
Additional reporting by Aung Kyaw Nyunt