Myanmar to get 3G mobile service next year, but nationwide roll out will take 5 years

Myanmar to get 3G mobile service next year, but nationwide roll out will take 5 years

Norwegian telecommunications operator Telenor, which won a telecom licence in Myanmar last week alongside Qatari firm Ooredoo, is planning to launch 3G mobile services in the Southeast Asian country starting next year.

According to a Bangkok Post report (via Tech in Asia), Telenor is targeting the complete nationwide roll-out of the 2G and 3G network using high-speed packet access technology within five years.

Glenn Mandelid, the communications director of Telenor Asia, told the newspaper that the company will also install 4G-ready base stations using long-term evolution technology, as it seeks to match worldwide networks in the country that has just recently opened up its economy after years of isolation.

The exact amount of investment being injected into the installation of the mobile network will be settled with the Myanmar government after terms and conditions for the telecom licence are finalized, the report added.

Telenor and Ooredoo – both national telecom groups partly owned by their governments – beat nine other bidders to get the telecom licence in Myanmar, including Singapore’s SingTel and India’s Bharti Airtel.

Myanmar has undergone dramatic changes following political reforms after its 2010 elections. Global investors keen to develop in an untapped market have been attracted to Myanmar’s nascent economy.

According to statistics, only an estimated 2-3 million people in Myanmar own a cellphone – about 3 percent of the population. There is much to do in the country, and the Myanmar government has taken steps to make the Internet more accessible to its citizens after years of pervasive restriction. Two months ago, Asian Correspondent reported that the government will drastically reduce the price of SIM cards – once retailing at a prohibitive $2,000 each, SIM cards will now be available for just $2-$3.

Sensing opportunity, a number of tech and telecom firm have swooped in – Rocket Internet, Google, Microsoft, Japan’s KDDI and NTT Com have all recently opened local branches and set up local sites to cater to Myanmar. HTC also launched six of its phones in the region, complete with local language support, and cheaper Chinese devices are available too.

Research firm International Data Corporation expects IT spend in Myanmar to reach $233.56 million by 2016, which would be a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent between 2011 and 2016.

Headline image via Thinkstock

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