Monday, July 24, 2017

Cheap SIMs coming to Myanmar: foreigners only


A US$15 SIM card for mobile phones is on the way – but only for foreigners.

The three-month cards will be on the market from June 2013 in the run-up to the Southeast Asian Games, said U Htay Win, chief engineer of the Department of Mobile Communications at Myanma Post and Telecommunications (MPT) on Monday, November 19.

The low-price cards will be on sale at airport information counters and sports villages to international athletes arriving for the games, said U Htay Win.

Speaking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, he said: “We will sell the card for only $15 like other international low-priced SIM cards. But the mobile SIM cards are meant for international athletes rather than local users.”

MPT does intend to sell cheaper SIM cards to the public before Myanmar assumes the ASEAN chairmanship in 2014, U Htay Win said.

“We will continue to cut mobile prices so that more and more people can use them. But we can’t reduce the price immediately because the country’s mobile network can only support about four million to six million mobiles,” said U Htay Win. “We have to balance market demand and supply in numbers we can support.”

He said there were more than three million mobile phone users in Myanmar, or about 7.8 percent of the country’s population.

SIM card prices and mobile phone charges are high in Myanmar compared with other ASEAN countries, which have greatly expanded their mobile phone markets with the use of prepaid cards.

U Htay Win said a draft communications law bringing in lower charges was being discussed in hluttaw.

“I think two or three mobile operators will appear next year if the law is approved during the next hluttaw session,” said U Htay Win.

“The mobile price will decrease somewhat as the communications market becomes more competitive after the law is approved,” he said, adding that many foreign communications companies had expressed interest in investing in Myanmar, and some might be granted a licence to operate before the end of next year.

“We expect to be able to cut prices before 2015 or 2016,” said U Htay Win.

He attributed the current high charges to contracts signed with foreign countries for five years, which would have to expire before charges could fall. MPT charges $0.98 a minute.

It also emerged that next month MPT will charge for internet services by data volume instead of by the minute.

U Thaung Su Nyein, chief executive of Information Matrix IT, said he hoped the government would expand mobile usage to the entire population at a lower price.

“I think cheap SIM cards will succeed in the private sector as market strategies develop. But the current network can barely support the three million users we have, which is a big weak point,” he said.

“This won’t look good when Myanmar hosts the SEA games and becomes the ASEAN chairman, and it will also deter potential foreign investors,” said U Thaung Su Nyein.

Translated by Zar Zar Soe