YANGON, July 27 (Reuters) - Myanmar on Monday invited proposals from domestic public companies to become its fourth telecoms operator in partnership with a foreign firm, the latest move to meet swelling demand for mobile services in the once disconnected country.
Telecoms sector liberalisation is widely seen as one of Myanmar’s most successful reforms since the military ceded power in 2011. Usage has since leapt to just over half the population of 51 million.
The venture would add another player to a telecoms sector that has exploded since Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo started offering cellphone services last year.
A third license is held by MPT, a joint venture between the telecoms ministry and Japanese-owned KDDI Group.
Monday’s offer is to be part of a “special purpose vehicle”, for which a Myanmar firm would first be selected by telecoms authorities with a foreign partner sought later, an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
“The number of mobile phone and internet users has been growing very fast here. We have to improve the services,” the MCIT official told Reuters, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The announcement run in Monday’s state-run Myanma Alin Daily requires firms with registered capital of at least 3 billion kyat (about $2.3 million) to submit proposals by Aug. 24.
Only three years ago, cellphone penetration in Myanmar, at 2.3 percent, was Asia’s lowest after North Korea, when MPT was a state monopoly offering limited, at times, haphazard, 2G services.
Telenor last week reported second quarter earnings below expectations but analysts said strong performance of the firm’s Myanmar unit had helped offset weaknesses of subsidiaries elsewhere. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Martin Petty)