Access to land for towers will be a key challenge as Myanmar’s two new foreign operators roll out their telecom networks this year, industry sources say.
Following the issuing of licences to Telenor and Ooredoo earlier this month, both companies have chosen partners to handle the construction of their telecom towers. Norway’s will work with Apollo, while Ooredoo has made agreements with Digicel and Yoma Strategic Holdings.
These companies will then subcontract to local firms, Daw Thiri Kyar Nyo, a public relations manager at Ooredoo Myanmar, said at the Second Myanmar Telecoms Infrastructure Summit in Yangon on February 17 and 18.
“They can choose whichever partners they like [to work with],” said Daw Thiri Kyar Nyo.
“[Building the network] is a very big project. We can’t go into every detail … But we have chosen partners who are reliable as we have to focus on other work.”
But experts said many issues related to tower construction remain unclear, particularly as the rules for the Telecommunications Law are yet to be enacted.
John Adler, chairman of Ericsson Myanmar, described the infrastructure rollout as “unknown territory” not only because of the regulatory landscape but also the government structure, land rights, duties and taxation, access and security.
“The regulations must be clear,” he said. “Right now, telecom tower companies are hunting [for] land. But it is quite a big country … and we can’t start our operations before the finalisation of the telecom regulations is completed.”
Current rules for land use and construction permits made the challenge similar to “rolling out a network on Mount Everest”, one industry lawyer said.
Construction permit procedures mean authorities will be overwhelmed by the volume and tight deadlines of applications to build towers, he said.
“There are so many administrative issues, all because this is … an unprecedented project in Myanmar. In my view, we need a ‘silver bullet’: One solution for all the issues in one go,” said Edwin Vanderbruggen from VDB Loi.
“One regulation, carefully connecting existing laws and rules for all states and regions, covering land use, titling, construction, registration and security special for network infrastructure.”
Despite the concerns, Deputy Minister for Communications and Information Technology U Thaung Tin said 2014 would be a massive year for the sector.
“The liberalisation of the sector will give more opportunities for investment … [and] 2014 will be the year of [project] execution and implementation [for the] private sector,” he said in his keynote address at the event.