A government allocation of spectrum that will allow telecoms firms to vastly improve 4G services is scheduled for March next year, according to a senior official from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
All three operators – Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT – have rolled-out 4G services in select areas. But expanding the service and improving speed and capacity depends on access to additional spectrum.
Telenor started offering 4G services in Nay Pyi Taw in July, but will only move to larger cities after it acquires a chunk of the 1800MHz band, chief executive Lars Erik Telleman recently told The Myanmar Times.
“Spectrum is a bottleneck for us in terms of full expansion and moving to 4G,” he said. “We have 2G, 3G and have rolled out 4G selectively. If we wanted to go with 4G everywhere we would have had to let go of 2G and we made a clear choice to stick with 2G.”
The 1800MHz allocation was supposed to have happened before Christmas this year, but Telenor now understands it is likely to be in the first quarter of 2017, Mr Telleman said.
U Myo Swe, deputy director of the Posts and Telecommunications Department at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, said the 1800MHz band would be allocated to all operators in March.
The spectrum will be made available to all operators equally, he said. A fourth telco – a collaboration between Hanoi-based telecoms operator Viettel, a Myanmar consortium and a Myanmar military-owned firm – is expecting to start operations next year. But whether that firm will be included in the 1800MHz process is unclear.
State-owned operator MPT, which started offering 4G in a handful of locations in Yangon and the capital in October, is eager to get its hands on the new band.
“Currently, we cannot extend the 4G network to other areas. We are hoping to purchase 1800MHz spectrum [then] we will extend [4G] across Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw first,” U Khin Maung Myint, director of marketing at MPT-KGSM – MPT’s joint venture with overseas partners KDDI and Sumitomo – told The Myanmar Times.
Mr Telleman said the new spectrum allocation would mean a better quality of 4G service in addition to geographic expansion.
“It’s important to understand that 4G is a new technology and nobody has launched with a real 4G experience [in Myanmar],” he said. “So 4G is of limited capacity by the standards of what you will see in other markets where you have more spectrum. With 1800MHz you have a chance to provide the Myanmar consumers with a real 4G experience, and that’s the case for all operators.”
The government completed a successful auction for spectrum on the 2600MHz band in October, which was purchased by local internet service providers. Telenor and MPT initially applied to bid in that auction, but then decided to hold in preparation for the 1800MHz allocation.