Myanmar to open telecoms industry

Myanmar to open telecoms industry

Myanmar is set to open up its telecoms industry to foreign companies through the availability of two national licences.

The government has told foreign companies to express their interests for investing in the country by January 25 2012.

Due to be issued in June, the first of four planned licences by the sector could run for up to 20 years with an option for renewal, said a statement issued today.

State-owned telecoms operator Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the telephone service provider, has so far controlled the market and the move comes amidst the country's push for wider liberalisation.

According to the Financial Times, Myanmar is seeking to attract foreign investment after being under harsh military rule for years.

Reports suggest Russian operator VimpelCom has expressed an early interest in acquiring licences, as has Telenor, Vietnam’s VNPT-Fujitsu, Malaysia’s Axiata and Caribbean provider Digicel.

Licences in the country are expected to be intensely fought, largely because it remains one of the last big markets to open up in the sector. It presently has low rates of coverage, with a mere 1% fixed-line coverage, and approximately 5.5 million mobile phone subscribers, accounting for 9% penetration.

This is in sharp contrast to Asian rivals Cambodia and Thailand, which account for 70% and 110% penetration respectively, according to government figures.

A Myanmar telecoms licence could be worth billions, according to sources analysing the matter.

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