YANGON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Qatar’s Ooredoo can begin rolling out a telecommunications network in Myanmar after its licence is formally awarded this week, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
Myanmar announced in June that Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor Group had won licences after a hotly contested bidding process to develop networks in one of the world’s least connected countries.
A senior government official said the licence would be granted to Ooredoo at a ceremony on Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, after being delayed by about a month while the government finished writing telecommunications regulations.
“The significance of this signing is it will pave the way for them to go ahead with their operation,” said the official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
Another government official who declined to be named said a signing ceremony with Telenor would take place on Feb. 3.
Ooredoo declined comment on Wednesday. It told Reuters in October that once its licence was awarded, it would begin rolling out a network to cover Myanmar’s four biggest cities within six months and 97 percent of the population in five years.
Telecommunications were tightly controlled under decades of military dictatorship, with the government monopolising the sector and selling SIM cards for thousands of dollars when they were introduced a decade-and-a-half ago.
As a result, Myanmar had the lowest mobile penetration rate in the world, with Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson saying in 2012 that less than 4 percent of the country’s 60 million people were connected.
Since 2011, a quasi-civilian government has implemented sweeping political and economic reforms and has made telecommunications a key part of its plan to jump-start the economy.