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Myanmar: New telecom law in the works?

One hopes that the new law takes into account all the lessons we have learned in telecom reform in Asia in the past few decades.

According to Nomura, a new telecom law, which could allow for more licenses (up to 5) and direct or indirect foreign operator participation, is currently in final stages of drafting.The telecom sector in Myanmar is likely to be on the radar for most telcos for incremental investment.

Unstable politics and bottlenecks, including: 1) high handset prices ($45-600); 2) SIM registration cost of $150-200; 3) long waiting periods (up to 2 years) and connection hurdles; 4) poor networks and coverage; and 5) lack of competition have hampered growth.

The government is now targeting 50 percent wireless penetration by 2015, implying a 50 percent CAGR.

For this to happen, competition (lower prices), significant infrastructure investment (only around 400 BTSs now), and clearer policies (around interconnect etc) are required.

There is no foreign operator in Myanmar. A few Thai and Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE provide telecom/ satellite equipment. The size of Myanmar’s population is close to Thailand’s, where the combined market cap of the top-3 operators is $23 billion.

“With a mobile penetration below two percent, Myanmar most likely has the least developed telecommunications services in the world,” says Ericsson Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Elaine Weidman Grunewald.

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