Oore­doo hits half a mil­lion on 4G

The Qatari firm has seen a fast take-up of its fourth-gen­er­a­tion ser­vices and is look­ing for­ward to a planned spec­trum auc­tion to help it ex­pand cover­age.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - STEVE GIL­MORE s.gil­more@mm­times.com

OORE­DOO has racked up half a mil­lion 4G users since it be­came the first tele­coms op­er­a­tor to roll out fourth-gen­er­a­tion ser­vices in Myan­mar in May, and is look­ing for­ward to a planned spec­trum auc­tion that would help it ex­pand cover­age, chief ex­ec­u­tive Rene Meza told The Myan­mar Times.

When it launched 4G the Qatari firm said it aimed to cover one-half of Yan­gon’s town­ships, all of Man­dalay and about 90 per­cent of Nay Pyi Taw’s town­ships.

Last week Mr Meza told The Myan­mar Times Oore­doo now has 500,000 4G users across those three ar­eas and a to­tal 4G cover­age area en­com­pass­ing 4.6 mil­lion peo­ple.

Ri­val op­er­a­tor Te­lenor started of­fer­ing 4G ser­vices in Nay Pyi Taw in July, and is in the test­ing phase in Yan­gon and Shan State’s Muse and Tachilek, Joachim Ra­jaram, the firm’s head of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Myan­mar, said.

Te­lenor wanted to launch the new ser­vice away from heavy us­age ar­eas to minimise ad­just­ments in ex­ist­ing 3G ser­vices, and Nay Pyi Taw was a good mar­ket in that re­spect, Mr Ra­jaram said. He could not com­ment on when Te­lenor would launch com­mer­cial 4G ser­vices out­side of the cap­i­tal.

Both the telcos’ 4G ser­vices re­main for internet only for the time be­ing, with voice calls sup­ported on 3G.

The sharp in­crease in 4G us­age is the sec­ond time the Myan­mar mar­ket has taken Oore­doo by sur­prise, Mr Meza said. The first was the speed of smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion across the coun­try af­ter the com­pany first start op­er­at­ing in 2014.

When the Qatari firm en­tered Myan­mar it de­cided to con­cen­trate on the ur­ban cen­tres and on higher-value cus­tomers with heavy data us­age.

But the sub­se­quent coun­try­wide surge in smart­phone and data us­age left Oore­doo with­out a dis­tri­bu­tion net­work able to keep up with wider de­mand, he said.

The com­pany has since adopted a mass-mar­ket ap­proach to cater to wide­spread adop­tion of smart phones and data. Mr Meza said that 80pc of Oore­doo’s 8.2 mil­lion Myan­mar cus­tomers now use data, and es­ti­mated the split be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas at 50-50.

The firm’s 4G roll­out re­mains lim­ited to ur­ban cen­tres, and will track the ex­pan­sion of 4G en­abled de­vices, he added. Oore­doo cus­tomers want­ing faster-speed 4G of­fers need a 4G-com­pat­i­ble phone, but not a new SIM card.

Te­lenor in­sti­tuted a no-cost 4G SIM card swap pro­gram at the start of this year, and nei­ther Te­lenor nor Oore­doo are charg­ing cus­tomers more to ac­cess 4G ser­vices.

But regardless of the sup­ply of com­pat­i­ble SIM cards and de­vices, both firms will need more spec­trum in or­der to keep meet the grow­ing de­mand for 4G.

The firms pur­chase spec­trum – the ra­dio fre­quency on which com­mu­ni­ca­tion traf­fic can be sent – from the govern­ment. Oore­doo and Te­lenor both have spec­trum on the 900MHz and 2100MHz bands, and use the lat­ter for 4G.

The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion came un­der fire from the two telcos at the start of this year for plan­ning spec­trum auc­tions – ini­tially an auc­tion of 140MHz on the 2600MHz band – be­fore any kind of roadmap on how the re­source would be man­aged was in place. That auc­tion of 140MHz was then post­poned.

The Na­tional League for Democ­racy ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new Min­istry of Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is now go­ing ahead with a 2600MHz band auc­tion, which it an­nounced as part of its 100-day plan.

The min­istry’s Posts and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions De­part­ment re­leased auc­tion de­tails on July 25. The dead­line for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est was Au­gust 9 and the auc­tion for 40MHz on the 2600MHz band will be­gin on Oc­to­ber 17.

Whether or not Oore­doo pur­chases space on the 2600MHz will be a “strate­gic de­ci­sion”, said Mr Meza. But the firm has learned from the reg­u­la­tor that the 1800MHz spec­trum will be made avail­able by the end of the year, and it is this spec­trum on which the firm will rely for wider 4G cover­age, he added.

Mr Ra­jaram said Te­lenor will need to more spec­trum to bring 4G to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble and is in “close di­a­logue” with the reg­u­la­tor on the 1800MHz auc­tion. But he could not com­ment on when that auc­tion would be.

An as­sis­tant direc­tor in the Posts and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions De­part­ment, who asked to re­main anony­mous, said the 1800MHz would be “as soon as pos­si­ble”, but could not com­ment on whether it would be this year.

Both Oore­doo and Te­lenor are ea­ger to see lower-spec­trum bands like the 1800MHz made avail­able, as th­ese are bet­ter able to pen­e­trate walls and more suit­able to ex­pand cover­age. Bands like the 2600MHz re­quire a greater den­sity of tower sites, which is chal­lenge in ur­ban ar­eas, Mr Ra­jaram said.

Ex­pand­ing 4G cover­age also de­pends partly on how much data cus­tomers use. At present the av­er­age Oore­doo 4G cus­tomer uses 1.5 to 2 gi­ga­bytes of data per month, Mr Meza said.

“If that [fig­ure] stays there, then dou­bling the base [with­out more spec­trum] would be a stretch,” he said. But he thinks that early adopters of 4G in Myan­mar will be those with larger data needs, and as cover­age ex­pands it will reach cus­tomers with lower re­quire­ments.

Photo: AFP

Shop­pers buy Oore­doo mo­bile phone SIM cards from a shop in Yan­gon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.