By KHINE KYAW
In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Mehrotra said the firm would continue to invest in improving the quality and capacity of its network in response to surging demand for data.
“Data consumption is increasing month by month, and data customers continue to grow. We have seen that data usage in urban areas, especially Yangon and Mandalay, is at the same level as Scandinavian countries,” he said.
“Myanmar customers would love to see the world now, and we are getting more and more connected with each other. For that, our 4G is good enough.”
The firm now has 19 million subscribers in Myanmar, and 62 per cent of them are active data users with the average usage of 2.7 gigabytes on a monthly basis. It has now covered 92 per cent of the population, with its services available in 308 out of 330 townships in Myanmar.
“Generally, we see higher data consumption in the morning and evening but the patterns are changing,” he said.
“We used to see more data usage on weekends but it is now similar across all seven days.”
According to Mehrotra, Telenor is fully aware that rain and power outages may impact on the quality of its network performance. The firm’s network operating centre ensures that there is a minimum downtime with the enhancement of battery backup to enhance the user experience.
In a bid to ensure the best possible experience for data and voice calls, the firm now has 8,600 sites across Myanmar, with more than 6,100 sites being 4G compatible. Around 50 per cent of the sites are located in Yangon and Mandalay regions. Mehrotra takes pride in saying that Telenor has the largest 4G network in Myanmar.
“We are continuously expanding 4G sites, as we see there is higher demand for data. We just focus on quality and are trying to optimise our network so we are able to provide an excellent user experience,” he said.
“We are able to do quite well in building a very good data network here. With our very robust and diverse network, we are helping Myanmar people fully enjoy the benefits of 4G as well as the digital revolution.”
To date, the company has invested US$2.7 billion (Bt83 billion) in Myanmar, and invested $200 million in getting more spectrums over the past two years to provide innovative services. Additionally, the number of sites grows every day, said Mehrotra.
“Our network is technically advanced, and is ready for the future,” he said, referring to the firm’s preparations for the fifth-generation wireless technology (5G).
He said the launch of Telenor 5G services in the future will largely depend on local characteristics, spectrum pricing, market maturity and business opportunities in the market.
“If you take all these factors in mind, commercial 5G may be coming sometime – the latter part of 2020 or after that,” he said.
“That [5G] will come very soon. We just need to be mature and see the opportunities.”
When asked who would be the firm’s technology partner for 5G, he said, “We are exploring the 5G drive with the support of technology partners. It could be anyone, based on the common synergy and long-term vision.
“Like in other countries, we are doing pilots based on our experience. It is important to see what drives the market for bringing such a technology. We will be initiating 5G, but right now we still need to see the full benefits of 4G.”
Mehrotra said the firm would improve the quality of both voice and data, and had already introduced the new version of Telenor app with affordable voice and data packs to ensure the best price for its subscribers.
The executive said he is pretty happy with the growth of Telenor in Myanmar. According to a report on Telenor Group’s business performance in the first quarter of 2019, 2.3 million “new subscribers” are using its services, with more than half from Myanmar.
“Our growth in Myanmar is really good. We see the government is taking many measures in terms of a stable regulatory regime,” he said.
“It can be done more in terms of regulations, data privacy and advocating cyber laws. All these works are going on, at the government level. And we are trying to optimise our network performance in all parts of Myanmar.”
The firm now has 110,000 points of sale and 50 brand shops across Myanmar. Mehrotra said the firm believes in partnerships and sharing of towers and fibres, though it has sufficient kilometres of fibre to cover the whole population.
“We do believe in sharing. We share some sites but we also have partners to build our own sites. The sharing usually comes through our partners,” he said.
On Friday, the firm celebrated the official opening of its new head office located in the heart of Yangon. The firm now has 825 employees in Myanmar, and 91 per cent of them are locals.