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Qatar’s Ooredoo mobilises more than 1m with telecoms launch in Myanmar

Out-Law News | 26 Aug 2014 | 9:57 am | 2 min. read

The Qatar-based Ooredoo group said it has established a customer base of more than one million in Myanmar, less than three weeks after going live with its services in the country’s newly-liberalised telecoms market.

Ooredoo Myanmar said it has seen “unprecedented demand” for its mobile phone and internet services, through sales of a low-cost SIM card, following changes in the law in 2013 that opened the country to foreign telecoms providers.

Ooredoo has installed what it said is “the world’s first next-generation purely UMTS900 network throughout Myanmar... which is primed to enable a smooth transition to a 4G LTE network in the future”.

According to the company, its network “will rapidly extend to include 25 million people by the end of 2014, as the company brings the benefits of connectivity to the population as fast as is possible”.

Ooredoo group chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al Thani said work is already under way to ensure services in Myanmar are continuously improved. He said: “Mobile communication enriches people’s lives. It connects job-seekers with new opportunities, unites families who are separated by geography, enables teachers to access learning resources, farmers to track market demand, and entrepreneurs to connect with new suppliers.”

Many customers “are using mobiles and accessing the internet for the first time, demonstrating the potential for growth and strong appetite for data services in Myanmar,” Ooredoo said.

Ooredoo was one of two successful applicants (the other being Norway’s Telenor group) to be awarded a telecommunications licence in the country in June 2013. The company’s Myanmar team is 1,000 strong, 800 of whom are from the country. Ooredoo said in addition, “alongside traditional sales and services jobs which cover 6,500 dealers at launch and 30,000 points of sale for top-ups, the company estimates through the distribution network alone it has already supported approximately 50,000 new jobs for the people of Myanmar”.

A report published earlier this year (53-page / 13.8 MB PDF) by the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group, and the GSMA Association, said Myanmar, with a population of nearly 60 million, “is considered one of the last frontiers for growth in the Asian region with immense business potential in various segments including energy, telecommunications and infrastructure”.

The report said: “Until recently, the telecommunications industry in Myanmar has been a monopoly run by the Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, the state-owned incumbent operator, providing fixed and wireless communications services in the country. With a current subscriber base of 5.44 million, the mobile penetration in Myanmar has been the lowest in the region at only less than 10% of the population having access.”

According to the report, the entry of Ooredoo and Telenor is expected to see Myanmar’s mobile subscriber base grow to 22 million, increasing the penetration rate to about 40% by 2017. Similarly, the mobile network coverage of population is expected to grow from the current level of 12% to 70% by 2017.

However, the report said telecoms operators “face many infrastructure challenges to achieve the aggressive network rollout targets”. Electricity supply and grid infrastructure “remain the biggest challenges” to rollout the network, as the grid power infrastructure reaches only 29% of the population in Myanmar at present and the per capita power consumption is amongst the lowest in the region at 160 kilowatt hours per year, the report said.

Technology expert Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “The success indicates the vast economic potential presented by ‘greenfield’ sites like Myanmar. It will surely be an encouragement and blueprint for all businesses seeking to break into new markets.”