Since Myanmar’s telecoms revolution began in 2014, the number of internet users has risen from 2 million to more than 39 million, while the number of SIM cards in circulation has risen by almost 400 percent, according to government figures.
As of May, 43.72 million SIM cards had been sold by Myanmar’s four operators – foreign telcos Telenor and Ooredoo, state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications, and MECtel, a subsidiary of military-run Myanmar Economic Corporation.
This equates to 89.38pc mobile penetration, said U Soe Thein, director general at the Posts and Telecommunications Department; a dramatic increase from the 6.99pc penetration recorded at the end of fiscal year 2011-12.
However, the figure does not represent true penetration, as it is common for mobile users to own more than one SIM card. When the price of buying a phone number fell from more than US$1000 to just K1500 in 2014, many buyers bought Ooredoo and Telenor SIMs to compare the new networks against the state incumbent.
The number of people using the internet has also risen quickly, U Soe Thein said, adding that most users get online through mobile 3G broadband.
“Before we initiated telecoms reforms, less than 2 million people used the internet. By 2015-16, there were 39 million internet users in Myanmar,” he said.
Supporting this growth, infrastructure has been rolled out quickly across the country, with the number of towers rising from 3000 in 2013 to 11,700 today, while the national fibre backbone has grown from 7600 kilometres in 2013 to 31,000km (19,200 miles).