Thursday, June 29, 2017
The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Myanmar mobile leaps along

Much talk in the telecoms market has been dedicated to the digital leapfrog: the almighty hop from legacy technology to a mobile-first future. Myanmar’s operators – state-owned incumbent Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), Ooredoo and Telenor – have seen subscriber figures jump by millions over the past few years; and though coverage rates have climbed higher than ever before, they’re not stopping now.

LEFT: September 2014, 70pc coverage of the population. RIGT: March 2016, 95pc coverage of the population. Images: MPTLEFT: September 2014, 70pc coverage of the population. RIGT: March 2016, 95pc coverage of the population. Images: MPT

All three recently talked to The Myanmar Times about the country’s technology transformation, and what challenges may lie in store.

MPT

“For MPT, mobile subscribers tripled from 6 million to 19 million,” said KSGM public relations adviser Yosuke Fukuma in an email. “More than US$3 billion [has been] invested in the ICT sector led by telecoms, with over 50,000 jobs created in the telecoms sector, according to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology [MCIT].”

Future challenges for the state-owned operator include mobile network enhancement and the launch of 4G, building nationwide broadband infrastructure for high-speed internet services, and encouraging mobile financial services, mobile education, mobile health, e-government and other extensions across industries, he said.

Ooredoo

Ooredoo CEO Rene Meza said the company was extremely pleased with the progress it had made on expanding its network.

“The transformation the country has seen in the telecommunications sector is supported largely by the fact that currently close to 80 percent of Myanmar’s population has access to high-speed mobile internet delivered by our 3G network and more than 7700 kilometres [4800 miles] of fibre optic built,” Mr Meza said, adding that the company’s investment of more than $1.7 billion had helped.

Ooredoo has moved on to the second phase of its rollout – into the Myanmar countryside. “Most of the challenges we had at the beginning of our journey are now behind us and we continue to rapidly expand our network coverage and infrastructure, which is getting into deep rural areas,” Mr Meza said.

“For this transformation to continue and for Myanmar to continue being a world example of technological leapfrogging, the right and efficient allocation of spectrum is fundamentally crucial as the country and consumers get ready for new technologies like 4G to be introduced.”

Telenor

Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg said at the company’s third sustainability briefing that the company had reached 62 percent coverage by February and had turned on about 5000 towers.

He said coverage could be defined differently with regards to signal strength.

“The thing that surprised us most [was] the data – 52pc monthly data users is very high [in a] country with this type of GDP, so it’s promising in terms of what you can do on that platform,” he said.

“When we add financial services, [that] will allow you over time to participate in the global internet ... We have the opportunity to leapfrog.”

The sustainability briefing highlighted health, safety, security and environmental issues Telenor faces in Myanmar, including cases of underage labour in the supply chain.

“I don’t think it’s impossible to eradicate it … I think we are definitely improving Myanmar in this respect,” he said.

Meanwhile, new challenges could crop up.

“I think [they’ll] potentially be related to … security, and how governments will use new laws and regulations that are coming with respect to their rights and opportunities to access confidential information.”