YANGON Aug 2 Qatar's Ooredoo on
Saturday launched telecommunications services in Myanmar, one of
the world's least connected countries.
Ooredoo will take on two rivals rolling out networks in
Myanmar, which has only 10 percent mobile penetration according
to government figures. Norway's Telenor Group won the
other licence granted to foreign operators.
More than 90 companies and consortia submitted expressions
of interest after the government issued a tender for the two
licences last year.
"They really challenged the international industry in their
international tender and created the most competitive process
the world has ever seen in telecommunications," Ooredoo Myanmar
CEO Ross Cormack told reporters in Yangon, the commercial
The country's sole telecoms provider until now, state-run
Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), last month announced
its partnership with Japanese firms KDDI Corp and
Sumitomo, a trading house, and KDDI, Japan's second-largest
wireless carrier, said they would invest about $2 billion to
expand the existing network.
Cormac said Ooredoo's voice and 3G internet services will
initially be available in Myanmar's three main cities of Yangon,
Mandalay and the capital, Naypyitaw. The network will cover 25
million of Myanmar's approximately 60 million people by the end
of the year and 97 percent of the population within five years,
Telenor will launch its voice and data services in September
in the three largest cities and will reach 90 percent of the
population within five years, spokeswoman Hanne Knudsen told
Edwin Vanderbruggen of law firm VDB Loi, which has offices
in Myanmar and neighbouring countries, said MPT and its partners
may have an advantage over the foreign operators, which face a
legal maze in securing land for tower sites.
"As a locally-owned entity, MPT can roll out a network
faster, at least in theory, because it can hold land without
restrictions," he said. "Foreign-owned companies have to jump
through more hoops and that might slow things down."
Ooredoo could face another challenge: nationalist monks have
called for a boycott because the company hails from Qatar, an
Myanmar is riven by strife between its Buddhist majority and
Muslims who make up only about 5 percent of the population, but
have overwhelmingly been the victims of clashes that have killed
more than 200 people over the past two years.
Cormack stressed that Ooredoo has 800 local employees
working to connect the entire population.
"This for everybody," he said. "Every creed, colour and
religion can enjoy these wonderful services."
Hate speech and sectarian tension have accompanied sweeping
reforms in Myanmar that include easing restrictions on speech,
which were initiated by the semi-civilian government that took
over in 2011 after 49 years of military rule.
Telecommunications were tightly controlled by the former
junta with the government monopolising the sector and selling
SIM cards for thousands of dollars when they were introduced a
As a result, Myanmar had the lowest mobile penetration rate
in the world with Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson saying that in
2012 less than 4 percent of the country's population was
(Editing by Matt Driskill)