Weird prepaid mobile in Myanmar

Posted on August 21, 2010  /  1 Comments

The Kim-family-owned North Korea has the world’s lowest mobile penetration despite having issued a 3G license to Orascom. Right next to them at the bottom of the league table is Myanmar, which used to charge a horrendous fee to get connected only to postpaid. Now it appears that they have started offering some kind of non-renewable prepaid.

Even mothballed Myanmar is coming along, albeit slowly. Until recently, its military rulers did not permit pre-paid mobile services on its network. Obtaining a local SIM card meant shelling out at least $1,500, assuming you had the right connections. No mobile roaming was allowed. Recently, however, the government began selling pre-paid cards to anyone with $20 to spare. Alas, the numbers cannot be topped up and expire after a month. It seems that the generals understand as little about building customer loyalty as they do about earning the political sort.

I am trying hard to figure out what went through the mind of the person who designed this scheme. Perhaps he was trying to increase the SIMs/100 for Myanmar.

1 Comment

  1. Actually, it was last year when they started issuing the prepaid GSM sim cards to the public at the cost of 26,000 Kyats/ sim (at current black market rate, it is around 26 USD).
    Not later after this GSM scheme, they invented a 3-month CDMA card which costs around 50 USD. This card also lasts for 3 months and is not renewable. Both one-month GSM card and this 3-month CDMA card charge 360 Kyats (0.36 USD) per minute whereas other landlines and GSMs, CDMA mobiles charge 50 Kyats (0.05 USD) per minute.
    Starting earlier this year, they also started a prepaid CDMA mobile phone which costs around 500 USD officially. This CDMA mobile is charged the same as other landlines, GSMs and CDMA mobiles. However, the bad thing is that the covered area is limited. For example, the phone issued in my division can be used only within my division (16 townships.) In Yangon, people can use within 32 townships. There are rumors about releasing another kind of GSM card which will cost only 200 USD but we don’t know what kind of limitations are coming with it.
    I actually think that our government is trying to improve the communication system as they become to understand its importance in building a developed economy. However, they have had a terrible start. If they now released the low-cost mobiles which can be topped up and which can be used nationwide, there would be a political uproar from the people who bought the official mobiles at very high price. I believe that they have to change at one point. But I don’t know when.