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Frank assessment of Myanmar challenges by Telenor

We know how much pent up demand there is in Myanmar for voice and data communication. The government has fast-tracked reforms to respond. World Bank and others, including LIRNEasia in our small way, are striving to help. Some tunnel-visioned do-gooders are trying to hold back informed reforms that will learn from the experiences of countries that have liberalized their markets before Myanmar, but we hope they will fail.

Giving the people of Myanmar what most people take for granted poses significant challenges. Telenor leaders outline some.

Baksaas was nonetheless candid about the risks. He talked about Myanmar’s weakness in “institutional capacity” and a legal framework still in development.

The Telenor chief also drew attention to land issues, where lack of a comprehensive registry made it difficult to establish ownership – that, he said, would likely cause difficulties in locating base stations.

And while Baksaas acknowledged welcome signs of greater political stability, he said there were still “areas of conflict”.

Furberg, in his presentation, pointed to other concerns. Three-quarters of Myanmar’s 60 million population have no access to electricity and around half of the country’s roads are not accessible during monsoon season. Getting energy to base station sites will be a logistical challenge.

By focusing on the prepaid market and establishing a widespread distribution network, however, Baksaas and Furberg both reckoned they could profitably roll out affordable services in one of the few remaining undeveloped mobile markets in the world.

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