Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Race heats up for Burma telecoms licenses

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 00:00 Mizzima News

Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel has joined the competition to obtain one of two telecommunications licenses being granted to international companies by the Burmese government.

(Photo: Bo Bo / Mizzima)

Bharti is the world's fourth largest mobile phone operator in terms of number of subscribers, but to date has no operations in Southeast Asia.

Also in the bidding war are: Irish company Digicel who have been exploring the market in Burma since 2009; Singapore Telecommunications Ltd; Malaysia’s Axiata Group; Singapore's ST Telemedia Pte; and Norway's Telenor ASA.

The deadline for applications was January 25, although it was reported in Myanmar Times on Tuesday, January 29, that the deadline was being extended to February 8.

In a statement issued to Bloomberg News last week, Axiata said: “It is a logical and interesting market to consider investing in. It represents a strategic market given its high growth potential.”

The licenses will be issued by June and could last for up to 20 years. Two other licenses are being offered to Burmese companies in an aim to increase Burma's low mobile phone penetration to 80 percent by 2015.

Usage is extremely low in Burma—official data says 9 percent—compared with 64 percent in Laos, 57 percent in Cambodia, and more than 100 percent in Thailand and Malaysia where individual ownership of multiple phones pushes usage above population levels, according to the Asian Development Bank.
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