Myanmar is breathing on Malaysia’s neck in terms of unique mobile subscribers. Its unique mobile subscription is already ahead of Nepal, Sri Lanka and Cambodia – according to GSMA. Nielsen also advises its clients to bet on “rapid up-take of mobile technology” by Myanmar’s youngsters. Repeated outages of Internet, however, stain the country’s digital profile. Doug Madory of Dyn Research compares the situation to closing a highway at rush hour.
There are clearly problems with Myanmar’s international internet connections. Myanmar relies heavily on terrestrial links to Thailand for access to the global internet. If that link is down, then there is reduced capacity to carry internet traffic into and out of Myanmar. This reduced capacity results in congestion and increased latency – the time traffic takes to and from its destination. It is possible for congestion to get so bad that web browsing and other online activities don’t work because the latency is just too high and the connections time out.
It is quite surprising that Myanmar is yet to activate its north-south terrestrial optical fiber link with China. Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, the state-owned monopoly, got linked with six international carriers across the eastern border with Thailand instead. There is nothing wrong about it. But Doug Madory has found this connectivity with multiple counterparts being unreliable. That’s why if the Myanmar-Thailand link goes down, all the six overseas partners shutdown as well.
Myanmar should immediately activate its northern link with China. It should also get connected with Bangladesh across the western border. Diverse international connectivity will strengthen Myanmar’s position to bargain with the international IP transit carriers. The country will acquire further strength once the SEA-ME-WE5 and AAE-1 submarine cables are commissioned in a year or two. Such diversity across the borders and maritime routes will make Myanmar immune to any outage.