Telenor to Launch 3rd Telecoms Service This Week

By Jared Ferrie 26 September 2014

RANGOON — Norway’s Telenor said it would launch telecommunications services in Burma on Sept. 27, becoming the second foreign telecoms company to start operating in one of the world’s least connected nations.

Telenor follows Qatar’s Ooredoo, which launched services on Aug. 2.

At that time, Burma’s mobile penetration rate was only 10 percent, according to government figures. Ooredoo says that since then it has sold about 1 million SIM cards, while state-backed operator Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has also increased sales.

Telenor plans to reach 90 percent of the country within five years, a similar roll-out plan to Ooredoo’s.

Telenor will launch in the central city of Mandalay first, followed by the capital Naypyidaw and then Rangoon, Burma’s largest city, said Petter Furberg, Telenor’s chief executive in Burma.

“Within weeks we will be available in more than 12,000 outlets in the three main cities,” he said.

Formerly the sole telecoms provider, MPT has partnered with Japanese firms Sumitomo Corp., a trading house, and KDDI, Japan’s second-largest wireless carrier, which said they would invest about $2 billion to expand its existing network.

All three telecoms companies priced their SIM cards at kyat 1,500 (about $1.50).

Telecommunications were tightly controlled by Burma’s former junta, with the government monopolizing the sector and selling SIM cards for thousands of dollars when they were introduced a decade and a half ago.

As a result, Burma had the lowest mobile penetration rate in the world. Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson said that in 2012 less than 4 percent of the country’s population was connected.

More than 90 companies and consortia submitted expressions of interest in a tender issued for two licenses last year by the semi-civilian, reformist government, which took power in March 2011 after 49 years of military rule.