New Myanmar Operator Mytel to Invest US$2BN+ in Rural Network

Myanmar’s new operator Mytel has announced it will invest over US$4 billion to build a new network prioritising rural areas.

As announced on Developing Telecoms in March 2016, a consortium lead by Vietnam’s Viettel had secured negotiating rights to receive Myanmar’s fourth mobile licence. Viettel had failed in an earlier attempt to enter the Myanmar market, in 2014. Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport and Communication confirmed the latest license award on January 13. The consortium, Myanmar National Tele & Communications (MNTC), announced that it will operate under the Mytel brand.

MNTC, made up of 11 companies, has close links to the government through Star High Public Company, a subsidiary of the military run Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). MEC also owns MECTel, a little known CDMA network competitor to the other three operators in Myanmar. Recently MECTel has been operating as an MVNO over the Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT) network.

The Star High – MEC connection gives MyTel access to 1,000 towers and over 13,000 kilometres of fibre, plus other MECTel telecoms assets, thus transforming the viability of the business case for the new market entrant. According to an MPT spokesperson “As a general principle, the idea is to leverage MECTel’s assets, at least those ones that can be commercially used, as well as the existing subscriber base”.

The new operator will focus on rural coverage, aiming to reach nationwide coverage within the first year of operation and extend access to 95 per cent of the population within three years. The network will operate in the 900MHz and 2.1GHz bands. Mytel says it hopes to double current available mobile internet speeds with a target of 3mbps per user. Mytel has also announced it will connect to the AAE-1 (Asia-Africa-Europe) submarine cable with state-owned MPT controlling the land based access point into Myanmar.

Commenting on the plans, Zaw Min Oo, chief external relations officer of Mytel said “About 70 per cent of the population is rural. We are targeting them. We saw that people used the internet more than we expected. We are viewing it as an opportunity. Although we expect it will take about one year to prepare the services, it may be quicker as a result of sharing basic infrastructure. We will provide 2G, 3G and 4G depending on the requirements of the users."

The new licence will be valid for 15 years and can be renewed for an additional ten years. The terms are identical to those given to Telenor and Ooredoo, Myanmar’s other two overseas operators.

Myanmar currently has around 52 million mobile subscribers, with market penetration approaching 70 per cent.

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