MTN eyes Myan­mar

SA tele­coms gi­ant MTN is one of 12 op­er­a­tors in the run­ning for a li­cence to op­er­ate in Myan­mar – a large po­ten­tial mar­ket...

Finweek English Edition - - TECHNOLOGY - Simon Din­gle

Myan­mar – also known as Burma – is one of the most po­ten­tially ex­cit­ing ter­ri­to­ries for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions providers. Af­ter years of mil­i­tary rule, the south-east Asian coun­try is open­ing up in­ter­na­tion­ally, rep­re­sent­ing a new and po­ten­tially big mar­ket for multi­na­tional com­pa­nies. Myan­mar, like South Africa, has a pop­u­la­tion of around 50m peo­ple ac­cord­ing to Wol­framAl­pha, but it’s es­ti­mated that the coun­try’s mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion rate is be­low 5%.

There is cur­rently only one op­er­a­tor in Myan­mar and SIM cards are pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive, but lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are hop­ing to grow mo­bile phone use to 80% of the pop­u­la­tion over the next three years. The coun­try has made two op­er­at­ing li­cences avail­able in this re­gard and has an­nounced the names of 12 bid­ders in the run­ning for th­ese li­cences.

SA’s MTN is one of th­ese and has part­nered in Myan­mar with Amara Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a sub­sidiary of IGE, a di­ver­si­fied com­pany with in­ter­ests that in­clude telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tower con­struc­tion, SIM card distri­bu­tion, elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion as well as oil and gas ex­plo­ration. Sin­ga­pore’s M1 Tele­com is the third mem­ber of the con­sor­tium.

Other com­peti­tors for the two li­cences in­clude China Mo­bile, which has teamed up with Voda­fone – the par­ent com­pany of South Africa’s Vo­da­com – and France’s Or­ange, which is work­ing with Ja­panese trad­ing com­pany Marubeni. In­dia’s Bharti Air­tel is also in the run­ning.

MTN group CEO Si­fiso Dabengwa says he is con­fi­dent about MTN’s chances.

“If awarded a li­cence, we will rapidly and ef­fi­ciently de­ploy a world-class net­work in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices, as we have suc­cess­fully done in 22 emerg­ing mar­kets in­ter­na­tion­ally,” he said.

“MTN is strongly po­si­tioned to serve the Myan­mar mar­ket, as we of­fer a unique blend of world-lead­ing tech­nol­ogy and emerg­ing-mar­ket un­der­stand­ing.”

Ap­pli­ca­tions must be submitted to reg­u­la­tors in Myan­mar by early June but it is not yet known ex­actly when the li­cences will be awarded.

Ci­ti­zens of Myan­mar’s cap­i­tal Nay Pyi Taw out­side the Ou­parta Thandi pagoda. Cur­rently less than 5% of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion owns a mo­bile phone

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