THE COMPETITION in Myanmar's telecom industry will become more intense with the fourth licence, prompting the three existing operators to quickly seize all available opportunities to the benefit of consumers.
Starting this month, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the state-owned operator whose monopolistic rights ended last year, cut its Internet charges from 7 kyat (Bt0.21) per megabyte to 6 kyat. The short message fee was also reduced to 10 kyat, the lowest in the industry. Voice call charges are only 23 kyat per minute.
Ooredoo Myanmar this month offered a 50-per-cent bonus for any top-ups. On Friday, it launched Internet packages with the lowest charges – ranging from 4.55-5.57 kyat per megabyte, depending on the package. Packages come with 70MB to 5.5 gigabyte of data.
Rene Meza, chief executive officer of Ooredoo Myanmar, said Myanmar’s mobile phone penetration rate is about 60 per cent. Research by Deloitte Southeast Asia showed that the penetration rate was below 4 per cent at the beginning of 2012.
“Telecommunications will play a fundamental role in the growth of gross domestic product in Myanmar. Competition is welcome but we have to be extremely careful about infrastructure development, assets, broadband and data usage,” he said.
“Obviously, we will continue our growth journey, regardless of who comes next. It is difficult to project the future, but I think if you look at the market economy where economic growth is happening thanks to investors coming up, there are a lot of opportunities in the market, and we are pretty proud to be part of the journey.”
There are 17 local companies joining the auction for the fourth licence.
The entry of Telenor and Ooredoo |has increased competition, particularly for MPT, which had to welcome Japan’s KDDI and Sumitomo as new partners.
Takashi Nagashima, CEO of MPT-KDDI-Sumitomo Joint Operations, acknowledged the challenge.
He stressed the importance of expanding network coverage and improving service quality to satisfy consumers who demand better infrastructure and services to support their voice and non-voice transmissions.
The call success rate has also improved to 99 per cent. MPT looks to expand network coverage from 60 per cent to 70 per cent at the end of this fiscal year, which requires nearly 3,000 extra base stations. That’s the biggest challenge.
“We need land but in Myanmar it is very difficult to find out who is the owner of certain plots. The owner’s name is not changed even though one has sold the land to another. So it is very, very difficult to find out who is the actual landowner. “And we need to get permission from state/region governments, which usually takes a lot of time. So it is a very, very challenging thing for us right now,” he said.
“I do not know who will be coming as the fourth operator, and what kind of strategy it will bring to the market.
“But whoever it is, there will be no change in our basic strategy. Even if someone comes into the market, we will continue improving our network, services and quality. That is our strategy,” he said.
Petter Furberg, CEO of Telenor Myanmar, said network expansion would be his company’s focus. One key part of Telenor’s strategy is ensuring very good data connections at affordable rates. Telenor also looks at launching 4G coverage in the future, as it expects Myanmar to go very fast in terms of development.
“I think it’s going to be an extremely exciting period because one of the advantages of Myanmar is being a little bit late in building up mobile networks. This will lead us to building our networks with the latest technology,” he said.
Meza of Ooredoo said all operators need to consider providing consumers affordable services, especially for data.
“Projecting the future of a business is extremely difficult, as you can imagine. It is very dynamic and challenging now and then.
“So it is very difficult to give a projection on what will happen in the future. Our expectation and ambition is to grow our business, and I believe we will continue to grow.”