Competition brings a major boom to Myanmar’s telecom sector
The big change in Myanmar’s telecom sector has been the entry of two foreign operators in the local mobile market, joining the former monopoly operator, Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT). Buoyed by the success of the arrival of Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor, by 2015 the government was looking to issue a fourth and final telecom licence.
Much work remains to be done however, with Myanmar being the last underdeveloped telecommunication markets in Asia. Despite the fresh new focus on mobile services and the exploding growth in that sector, by 2015 only a few people had access to a fixed telephone line. Although the first internet connections were established back in 2000, internet services in Myanmar still remain slow and unstable. Of course, as affordable mobile services are now becoming widely available from MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor the market is changing, especially with respect to internet access. Mobile penetration has risen from less than 3% in 2011 to over 70% in 2015.
As already indicated, major changes have been taking place in Myanmar’s telecom sector as the market undergoes a level of liberalisation. The initial round of reforms certainly happened quickly with the issuing of new telecom operating licences and the allowing of international companies to enter the market.
Myanmar’s telecom sector has been a major driving force behind a rise in the country’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2014/2015, with Telenor and Ooredoo investing in infrastructure, as well as fulfilling their fiscal obligations under the licensing agreements. In the first five months of the 2014/15 fiscal year, telecoms accounted for 31% of total FDI of US$3.32 billion, becoming the biggest single component in direct capital inflows, according to the Myanmar Investment Commission. The flow eased in the latter half of the year, but still attracted a quarter of all FDI during the year, ranking it second only to the energy sector.
- By 2014/2015, Myanmar was one of Asia’s fastest emerging economies, with GDP rising 8.3% in FY2014 and forecast to rise 7.7% in FY2015.
- After two new mobile operator licences were issued in June 2013, the two new operators – Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor – launched their respective networks in the second half of 2014.
- The impact on the country’s mobile sector was immediate, with rapid growth in subscribers and fast falling tariffs.
- There were around 36 million mobile subscribers in the country by September 2015 for a total penetration of 66%.
- With incumbent MPT having pushed hard into the mobile sector in the previous two years, by September 2015 the total subscriber base had grown six fold in less than two years.
- Mobile broadband was having a huge impact on the market, the number of subscribers having passed 8 million for a population penetration of 15% coming into 2015.
- In November 2015 the MICT said that as soon as operators were ready to launch 4G networks in Myanmar, the ministry would release the necessary spectrum.
- In July 2015 the MICT began the tender process to select the local partner in Myanmar’s fourth telecom operator.
- In the first five months of the 2014/2015 fiscal year, telecoms accounted for 31% of total FDI of US$3.32 billion.
- In September 2015 the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) published a draft Telecommunications Master Plan.
- In August 2015 the MCIT issued a Request for Proposals (RfP) to obtain submissions for the lease of multiple satellite transponders through a condosat agreement.
- In September 2015 China United Telecommunications Corp was contracted to construct the first international undersea cable linking China and Myanmar.
- In November 2015 it was reported that 87 million new mobile subscribers had been added globally in the September quarter of 2015 and nearly 6% of these came from Myanmar, making it the fourth-fastest growing market in the world.
Note: Reporting on the Myanmar telecom market continues to partly rely on estimated figures as official information is either not available or has been found to be contradictory.
Companies mentioned in this report
Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT); Telenor Myanmar; Ooredoo Myanmar; KDDI; Sumitomo; SingTel, China Mobile; Axiata Group; Digicel; Qatar Telecom; Viettel Group; Vodafone.