At long last Myanmar’s fourth telecoms operator has its licence, but the brand name under which it will operate remains under wraps and the firm will only begin providing services in 2018, according to its external relations officer.
The Ministry of Transport and Communication formally awarded the firm – Myanmar National Tele & Communications (MNTC) – a licence yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw, U Than Htun Aung, director of the ministry’s Posts and Telecommunications Department, told The Myanmar Times.
MNTC is a tie up between Vietnam defence ministry owned-firm Viettel, a consortium of 11 local firms called Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public, and a subsidiary of military-run Myanmar Economic Corporation called Star High Public Company.
More than a year has passed since the government first announced a tender for international firms to join with a consortium to form a fourth operator. But anyone hoping that the licence ceremony would yield more clarity about the new operator’s business plans may be disappointed.
U Zaw Min Oo, chief external relations officer for MNTC and also a director of one of the firms in the Myanmar consortium, said that the telco could start issuing SIM cards later this year, but that it would only launch services in 2018.
“It will take at least 12 months to get ready,” he said. He would not disclose the brand name under which the new compnay will market it services, but said more details would follow at a press conference on January 14 in Yangon.
The new telco joins state-owned incumbent MPT and foreign firms Telenor and Ooredoo in the Myanmar market. But after almost three years of rapid growth the rate at which those firms are adding customers is slowing, and most of the areas yet to be served by a telecoms network are remote and rural.
Telenor CEO Lars Erik Tellmann said last year that almost everyone in Myanmar who wants a SIM card already has one, and that competition is shifting towards data services and quality.
“Our company is the last one to enter the market and almost everyone has SIM cards,” said U Zaw Min Oo at a press conference after the licence ceremony. “But we will do our best in this market, and we will try to ensure our communication networks reaches 95 percent of the population.”
U Zaw Min Oo said the operator plans to spend US$80 million on social welfare activities during its 15 year licence term. MNTC has paid $300 million for its licence, substantially less than Telenor or Oordoo.
“The government fixed the $300 million fee because [MNTSC] entered the market later than the other operators so that they have less market share,” said U Myo Swe, deputy director from Department of Post and Telecommunications.
Telenor paid just over $500 million for its licence and Ooredoo just over $1 billion, said U Myo Swe. Those firms received their licences in February 2014, following an application process where each set a fee they were willing to pay without knowledge of what other applications were offering.