It appears that getting sites to build towers is one of the biggest barriers to rapid rollout of mobile networks in Myanmar. One operator, MPT, has an advantage in that it owns land in all major population centers. The claim that they are examining tower quality before offering sharing is one that I would take with a grain of salt, were I the regulator. The sooner the assessments are completed, the easier life will be for its competitors. So I can imagine the priority being given to this task.
I would not be surprised if most towers turn out to need extensive remediation, another delaying tactic.
One solution is declare MPT (and other government) land in specific locations essential facilities, and mandate access on equal terms by all operators. It’s too risky to compel tower sharing when the owner is claiming the towers are fragile. In a big country like Myanmar it will take too much time for the regulatory unit in the Ministry to do their own assessments. Best is to open up the land. That will create the necessary incentives for quick tower sharing.
One area where there may be a difference is land use. Does MPT have privileged access to government land for tower-building?
Not only competitors but we, MPT, are also struggling to build new towers. We are not getting special benefits from government for building new towers.
As long as the land is used by MPT right now, we can use it. But other government land, they may charge a little much, maybe. [laughs]
In the future, what percentage of MPT’s towers will be shared?
Tower quality should be the big problem for the tower-sharing. We are now making many, many big [improvements] for many, many towers.
So in the future, we may share almost all the towers [if] required from other places, but right now … a very limited number of towers can be shared. Still, we are now talking with other operators, Ooredoo and Telenor, to share these towers. Maybe. Less than 100.
Regarding tower sharing, we have been assessing our towers’ robustness because existing MPT towers are fragile and cannot bear heavy weight to share them with others. Once these assessments are finished, MPT will start sharing.