Cuba should take telecoms tips from Myanmar

Posted on December 19, 2014  /  1 Comments

We have discussed the involvement of military and lack of connectivity in Cuba’s prehistoric telecoms sector. This week’s rendezvous of Havana and Washington is expected to make the difference. Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis at Dyn, strongly suggests that Myanmar should be the role model for Cuba’s telecoms reform.

If the Cuban government is truly committed to opening up greater access to the Internet for the Cuban people, its decision makers should carefully review the case study of Myanmar over the past three years. Like Cuba, Myanmar was considered one the last green fields of telecom – countries with virtually no telecommunications infrastructure. But just as the transformative growth did not come from Myanmar’s state telecom MPT, ETECSA is unlikely to be leading the way in Cuba. This isn’t a knock on ETECSA, it’s just that legacy fixed-line incumbents are not equipped or manned for the task of rapid deployment of mobile infrastructure. Cuba needs outside help, but to do so Cuba would need to adopt a capitalist mentality.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in Asia, 15-year licenses went for $500 million dollars and the winners had to pledge to build out infrastructure to cover 90% percent of the population in a country of 60 million people spread across the jungles of southeast Asia.

Why did entering Myanmar seem so attractive that over a dozen international mobile operators competed for these licenses? It likely had to do with the fact that Myanmar dispensed with the typical protectionist requirements that can stifle interest such as requiring domestic partners or putting caps on foreign ownership. Outside companies felt like they could come in and operate without being loaded down with requirements that might decrease their profit potential. The result is a rapid growth of Internet access that is having profound impacts on life in Myanmar from empowering women to connecting up libraries.

The scholarly analysis of Doug is here.

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