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Research and Markets: Laos experiencing mobile boom, attracting investment

After years of under-performance, Laos is on the way to economic growth. The mobile sector is attracting investment for many reasons including supplying telecoms to successful hydro-electric and mining projects.
Research and Markets has announced the addition of a new report Laos - telecoms, mobile, broadband and forecasts. The report includes research data and analysis on Laos, covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.
There was no hiding the fact that Laos has had to struggle for years with a poorly performing economy and a commercial environment that was in desperate need of reform. However, in the 2006-7 period there was a noticeable shift in the outlook for the country with positive news being reported on many fronts. Most importantly, a significant number of hydro-electric power projects and mining ventures have become or are close to reality, with many more possible projects in the pipeline.
Laos is at last moving forward in a confident fashion. It is also moving forward in its efforts to strengthen its telecommunications infrastructure, to attract more foreign investment into the sector and to introduce the latest telecom technologies.
As attention turned to building the country's infrastructure, by early 2009 fixed-line teledensity stood at less than two telephones per 100 people, with virtually no growth; however, the mobile market has been surging in a sustained fashion, especially since 2004-5. Coming into 2009, mobile penetration was around 32% with an annual growth rate running at 25%. Internet services are lagging badly, however, this being a major concern in terms of the overall social and economic development of the country.
While more foreign investment is needed to boost the telecom sector, the government must also be judicious in selecting and licensing new operators to ensure that it gets the best value out of the investment. The joint venture formed by the government with Thai company Shinawatra in 1996 let the five-year period of market exclusivity granted to Lao Telecom pass without any serious attention to infrastructure building. When the market was opened up to competition in 2002, foreign capital finally started to flow. The mobile phone market took off in early 2003, with the number of subscribers increasing sevenfold in the two years following.
The Lao telecom sector still has many issues to address. The rate of regulatory reform continues to lag well behind industry development and has the potential to derail the progress already made if the reform is not speeded up.
Research and Markets singles out several key highlights affecting Laos:
the mobile market in Laos continued on its positive expansion path in 2008, with annual growth of 30% for the year; growth was continuing at a similar pace into 2009;
with 32% mobile penetration, the mobile market had reached the two million subscriber milestone by April 2009;
the government having licensed six mobile operators, competition was heating up by 2008-9, putting considerable downward pressure on ARPU;
the launch of Laos Telecom's 3G service in July 2008 was an important move for the local telecom sector, although the subscriber sign-up rate to March 2009 remained only modest;
the sluggish development of Internet services continues to be a problem for the both the local telecom industry in particular and the country in general, especially given how crucial online access is to national growth.
The new report provides not only an overview of several subjects but also of and several companies relevant to Laos.
More info:

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