RANGOON — Burma’s communications ministry has further delayed awarding a fourth and final telecom license until mid-October, according to a ministry official, following a fiercely contested bid for the coveted permit.
The government initially planned to announce the winners by the end of September, after opening the tender in July to domestic firms. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology received letters of interest from 17 companies, a number of which will be selected to be part of a new public company that will partner with a foreign service provider chosen by the government.
Chit Wai, deputy permanent secretary of communications, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the selection process was “not yet complete,” but that the winners will be chosen in the next few weeks.
“We’re trying to select them as soon as possible, but it won’t be done this month,” the secretary said, predicting that the ministry will be able to announce the tender winners by the second week of October.
Applicant criteria requires that interested firms demonstrate possession of at least 3 billion kyats, roughly US$2.3 million—or enough capital reserves to form a new public telecommunications company.
Eligible bidders, such as Lwin Naing Oo of Shwepyi Takon Telecom, have accepted delays in the process because of the scope of the project at stake.
“We need to be patient, as this public company will benefit the people,” Lwin Naing Oo said. “I expect that after [the winning bidders] form a public company, they will be competing with foreign firms in the market, so it is important to take the time to create a long-term plan.”
Two foreign providers—Norway’s Telenor and Qatari Ooredoo—were each recently awarded operating licenses to compete with state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), which previously had a monopoly on the country’s direly underdeveloped communications market.
The total number of winning bidders has not yet been determined, Chit Wai said, offering only that the ministry “will select companies which follow the rules.”
Successful bidders will be expected to accept the selection committee’s decision regarding a foreign partner. Domestic stakeholders will be responsible for providing technical services, developing market strategies and contributing to both licensing and consultancy fees for an international firm that will aid in the selection of a foreign partner.