Myanmar


It’s not possible to give people what they want from ICTs (connectivity, quality, low price) without investment. So we are always happy when investment in telecom increases, especially in countries where the sector has been starved of investment for long like Myanmar. But we have to keep in mind that what the sector produces is not internationally tradeable (except for roaming services). The consumption occurs within the country. It contributes to the advancement of all other sectors, and thus indirectly to growing the entire economy including exports.
We have been writing about Myanmar’s electricity problems since we started working there. I had not realized that even at this early stage, the energy nihilists are active. They know what they don’t want, but cannot tell what should be done that is practical. In a rational world such people would not be taken seriously, but in our world they are: The reasons for the delays include strong domestic opposition, including protests by people in the affected areas. This is a lesson in how local communities must be supported, and where inconvenienced, given appropriate help to reskill or resettle.
LIRNEasia is carrying out research on the use of promotional and free data use in Myanmar and India. The results from our work  in Myanmar have now been released. This piece of research was carried out with financial support from Mozilla, the Google Policy Fellowship program, the UK Government’s Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre, Canada. We found that differently designed zero-rated promotions elicited different behavioural responses from users. Noteworthy was that many respondents were unaware of content offered by MPT’s Free Basics other than Facebook.
I always thought that composite indexes were unfair to India. However much India tried and whatever were its ICT achievements, they would all be diluted by the sheer number of Indians. The e Readiness Index that used to be published by the Economist Intelligence Unit used to be one exception. But then they stopped publishing it. Now the EIU is back with the new index and unsurprisingly, India does well in it too: 36th out of 75.
Learning from the experience of others, the licensing regime in Myanmar made it possible for companies that specialized in the operation of towers to function (unlike, say, in Sri Lanka). When the main business of a company is the leasing of space for antenna, it has incentives to use the towers most efficiently and to allow as many mobile network operators to use the space as possible. It is not that concerns over aesthetics and health are absent, but it would be fair to say that Myanmar could not have made the rapid progress it has achieved without this element of intelligent policy design. Fortunately for Myanmar’s telecom infrastructure companies, the market for rooftop real estate is booming. A fourth telco is due to launch this year, and Telenor and Ooredoo are in the midst of a major urban rollout.
LIRNEasia’s research findings from the nationally representative survey on ICT use and information needs conducted in 2016 are being quoted by officials from the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Myanmar, Htaike Htaike Aung of MIDO reports.  Most recently, it has been quoted by U Myo Swe, Deputy Director General of the Post and Telecommunications Department at a consultative workshop on universal service strategy, design and implementation held today (16 February 2017) in Yangon. Key figures such as household mobile ownership (83%) and poor digital skills were mentioned by U Swe.  The increase in mobile ownership in rural areas was also highlighted. LIRNEasia’s research findings showed that mobile ownership in rural Myanmar increased from 26% to 53% between 2015 and 2016.
It’s clearly not yet August 2017. So why is this Calendar page up on the website? It’s because the 2017 IDRC Calendar features the Myanmar as an inclusive information society project for the month of August. The featured photograph was taken by LIRNEasia alumna Radhika Wijesekera.
It’s not enough to build towers. The last mile has to be complemented by the middle mile and the first mile (though that seems a strained metaphor for international cables). The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency had backed the $105.74 million loan from the Bank of China (Hong Kong) to the Myanmar Fiber Optic Communication Network, MIGA said in a statement on January 25. The guarantee provides coverage for up to five years against such risks as currency inconvertibility and transfer restrictions, expropriation, and war and civil disturbance, MIGA said.
State-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) is a member of the prehistoric SEA-ME-WE3 and very recent SEA-ME-WE5 submarine cable consortiums. MPT also shares the landing facilities with China Unicom, which brings a branch of Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable to the country. This is how the incumbent has secured the landing of two contemporary submarine cable systems. The government has also injected competition and licensed the Singapore-based Campana Group to build the Myanmar-Thailand International Connection (MYTHIC) submarine cable. Last year Campana has contracted Alcatel-Lucent to build the 1,600km MYTHIC cable, equipped with 100Gbps technology for an initial design capacity of 20Tbps.
Mytel, the fourth telecom licensee in Myanmar, states that it intends to capacity of AAE-1 through MPT. But MPT says it’s not part of the AAE-1 consortium and does not intend to use AAE-1 capacity itself. What does that mean for Mytel? Should it ask for capacity on SEA-ME-WE 5 from its competitor instead? Mytel, which received Myanmar’s fourth telecoms licence on January 12, will also use the AAE 1 (Asia-Africa-Europe) submarine cable “so we will not have to worry about internet bandwidth”, said U Zaw Min Oo.
The fourth operator in the now mature Myanmar telecom market is Mytel. Sometime back I wrote about its secret sauce. In addition to confirming the use of military facilities, the company says that it will gain access to AAE-1 to ensure a good Internet experience for its customers. 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”.
In a wide-ranging interview, Htaike Htaike Aung and Phyu Phyu Thi talk about MIDO and how they approach policy problems in the ICT space. The article.
On the 19th of December, LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya and the MIDO co-founders (Phyu Phyu Thi, Htaike Htaike Aung and Wai Myo Htut) met with the the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, U Kyaw Myo to present the results of the 2016 nationally representative survey of ICT use in Myanmar.  U Sai Saw Lin Tun, Deputy Director General of the IT and Cyber Security Department in the Ministry and other officials were also present. The slides are found here.
The LIRNEasia representative-sample survey conducted in 2016 found that 78 percent of phone users had smartphones. A supply-side report confirms this. As with many developing countries, low-cost smartphones continue to thrive in Myanmar. In 2016Q3, 89% of smartphone shipments to the country fall below US$225. “Smartphones priced at US$50
In an interview with Light Reading, the Ooredoo CEO says The growth plateauing in Myanmar’s telecom sector will be based on the quality of the network and service because mobile users’ expectations are high. If an operator can’t provide attractive service, customers will definitely switch to another. Our growth is improving quarter-by-quarter. We had 8.2 million active customers in the second quarter of 2016 and 4 million active users in the same period last year.
Ranging from the incredible advance of teleuse documented by two surveys conducted by LIRNEasia and MIDO to the potential of ubiquitous smartphones for making the lives of Myanmar’s disabled citizens better, Helani Galpaya summarizes the work being done in Myanmar since 2013 on MTV, a business-news channel. She touches on the need to work on digital literacy and talk about how we have been informed policy in Myanmar since 2013. 12 minute interview aired on MTV