Thursday, July 12, 2012

Burmese gov’t to let foreign firms into telephone, Internet market

Thursday, 12 July 2012 15:51 Mizzima News

Burma has started a reform process in the telecommunication field that will lead to an upgrade of telephone and Internet services in the country, while driving international investments and lowering prices in the country.

A public telephone booth in Rangoon. Photo: Ye Min / Mizzima

Agence France Press reported in March that analyst firm Nomura Research said Burma was “one of the last untapped telecommunication markets in the region,” and the government plans to increase mobile penetration by 50 percent by 2015.

Minister Thein Tun of the Post and Telecommunication told Parliament this week a bidding process will be held for foreign companies eager to get into Burma’s chronically weak telephone and Internet services.

Burma has a very low Internet penetration rate due to both government restrictions on pricing and deliberate lack of facilities and infrastructure, according to observers. Offficial statistics say the country may have 400,000 Internet users with the vast majority from the two largest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay.

Although around 50 cities across the country are believed to have access to the Internet, the number of users outside Rangoon and Mandalay is very small. Some estimates say 96 percent of the country's near 60 million population lack telephone or Internet services.

Communication infrastructure is a major obstacle in developing Burma, and few people can afford a mobile phone or computer.

Thein Tun said the state-owned telephone operator Myanma Posts and Telecommunications and Internet provider Yatanarpon Teleport plan to create joint ventures after the tender process.

Meanwhile, Parliament is currently considering a new foreign investment law. In June, President Thein Sein said a new “privatization commission” would be set up in an attempt to increase the role of the private sector in industries such as telecommunications, energy, forestry, education and health.

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