Military-Backed Mytel Announces Successful Test of 5G Service

By Moe Myint 5 August 2019

YANGON—Mytel, the telecom venture between the Myanmar and Vietnamese militaries, and the fourth telecom operator to be established in the country, has tested Myanmar’s first 5G service using technology developed by China’s Huawei.

According to Mytel, Huawei’s 5G NR technology will provide significantly increased capacity, lower latency (or delays in sending data) and faster download and upload speeds to its 15 million users across Myanmar in the near future.

At a press conference held by Mytel at the Sedona Hotel in Yangon on Monday, chairman U Khin Maung Soe said the 5G test represented a step into the new “digital age of Myanmar.” With technical support from Huawei, Mytel conducted the 5G speed test at Yangon’s Myanmar Plaza in July.

Huawei 5G NR can download at a speed of 1.6 gigabits per second (Gb/s) and upload at 1.5 Gb/s, while its data transmission is 10 times faster than that offered by standard 3G and 4G broadband operators, according to U Zaw Min Oo, chief external relations officer of Mytel Company.

U Khin Maung Soe stressed that 5G has potential advantages for agricultural development; upgrading automotive driving systems in electric cars; and the so-called “pharma industrial internet”—a digitalized model for packaging, distributing and dispensing medicines—as it provides real time guidance via 5G video to junior doctors in clinics where specialists cannot be reached in time for surgical operations on patients.

U Zaw Min Oo said, “To help our country develop like other nations, we need a technological leapfrog.”

Despite Mytel’s enthusiasm, challenges to network rollout remain, as the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government has so far only allocated test 5G spectrum for use by domestic telecom operators. The company said it expects the government will officially allow operators to launch services in 2020.

“We were told that government will allocate 5G spectrum next year,” U Zaw Min Oo said.

The public relations officer said the budget for practical implementation will be not much higher than that for 4G network installation, adding that it would be based on Broadband Distribution Shelf (BDS) and RF equipment installation technologies.

Although the company needs to conduct new RF planning for the 5G network, he said 5G requires some 20 small cell sites per square kilometer, while 4G requires 15 sites for higher frequency spectrum, so the project cost would not be much different from 4G, he said.

Mytel SIM users will not be able to use 5G for the time being, but the company expects to deliver the service next year, pending the arrival of 5G handsets and the allocation of spectrum by the government. The data package selling rate for the 5G network would be the same as is currently charged 4G SIM users.

“There are about 10 manufacturers of 5G handsets so far [globally] and they are quite expensive. We think in 2020 we will see 5G service in some parts of the country,” said U Zaw Min Oo.

To draw the public’s attention, the company invited popular Burmese actresses Aye Wutyi Thaung (also known as Aye Thaung) and Khin Wint War to Monday’s event. The Vietnamese ambassador to Myanmar, Mytel chairman U Khin Maung Soe, chief finance officer U Thein Aung and shareholder U Mya Han also attended.

Mytel is a joint venture between the Myanmar Army-backed Star High Company, which owns 48 percent, Vietnam’s Defense Ministry, which holds 28 percent, and Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public Ltd, a group of 11 local companies with a combined 23-percent stake.

The company was launched in Yangon on June 9, at an event attended by Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Minister of National Defense of the Vietnam’s People’s Armed Forces Senior Lieutenant General Tran Don and nearly a dozen generals from both countries.

In the Myanmar telecom market, Norwegian based Telenor, Qatar’s Ooredoo, MPT and Mytel are the four major competitors. In July, Mytel was fined 300 million kyats (about US$97,800) by the country’s Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) for breaching the pricing and tariff regulatory framework.

A UN fact-finding mission recently urged international companies and governments to cut links with more than 140 companies owned or controlled by the Myanmar military, including Mytel.