By Achara Deboonme
RedLink Communications, a leading Myanmar telecommunications company, believes the upcoming liberalisation of the industry is likely to bring about more opportunities than threats to local players.
Shane Thu Aung, vice chairman and co-founder, is optimistic that liberalisation will bring in huge investment, which will be good for the country. The emergence of foreign players will bring in alliances.
“This is a good opportunity for local companies as well. I would say it’s challenging for local ICT players,” he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which took place in Nay Pyi Taw last week.
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In an effort to grow its information and communications technology industry, the Myanmar government is poised to issue two telecommunications licences to foreign firms and two to local companies. Altogether, over 10 foreign consortia were shortlisted for the bidding for the 15-year licenses. Bids were submitted on June 3 and the result will be announced on June 27.
According to Agence France-Presse, a bidder has estimated the required spending to develop a Myanmar network at about US$2 billion (Bt60 billion).
While vying for a local-player licence, RedLink expects to win some business from foreign bid winners.
“They will use local players as their partners. Many global players are coming and visiting our offices,” Shane Thu Aung said.
RedLink has prepared for liberalisation over the past few years by adopting international procedures and standards. Some of its 500 employees have been trained at home and overseas. It has sought advice from overseas consultants. It brought in engineering services and products from Samsung, as only help from South Korea and Japan was allowed when Myanmar was subject to complete sanctions from the United States.
Top-level executives have also been recruited from Korea, Thailand and the US.
The investment seems worthwhile, given the huge opportunities particularly in mobile communications. Myanmar’s mobile-phone penetration is only 7 per cent and the government requires players to increase that to 35 per cent by next year.
Shane Thu Aung also sees huge business potential from related services such as the Internet, data centres and software.
“We have prepared for this change in the past few years. We predicted what’s going to happen – every sector opening up,” he said.
Competition in the telecom industry will grow more intense, as Myanmar is agreeable to 100-per-cent foreign ownership of telecom companies, he added.