RANGOON — Norway’s Telenor launched its telecom network in Rangoon on Sunday, becoming the third telecoms provider to offer services in Burma’s biggest and increasingly connected city.
Telenor, one of two foreign telecom firms granted licenses to operate in Burma, first launched its mobile phone network in Mandalay on Sept. 27, and one week later in Naypyidaw. The company followed Ooredoo of Qatar—which launched in August—and Burma’s state-backed telecoms operator Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), in offering cheap SIM cards to consumers in Burma’s biggest cities for the first time.
“We started selling SIMs in 8,000 shops in 44 townships of [Greater] Rangoon on Sunday,” said Soe Thu Tun, a Telenor Myanmar spokesman.
“We are now selling 1 million SIMs for Rangoon and 1 million for Mandalay and Naypyidaw but the number of SIM cards is not limited. We will sell as many as the customers want,” he said.
The SIM cards cost 1,500 kyats (US$1.50) and offer a handful of promotional bonuses.
The ceremony on Sunday in Rangoon was attended by Telenor’s Burma CEO Petter Furberg, Tin Maung Than from the Myanmar Peace Center and the Norwegian ambassador to Burma, Ann Ollestad.
“Telenor SIM cards can call to over 200 countries in the world and can be used in Malaysia, Thai, India, Pakistan and Canada,” Soe Thu Tun said.
As with the launch of Ooredoo in August, some early users say they are experiencing spotty or nonexistent service and mobile Internet connections.
“The network will get better and better. … We have already equipped 348 towers in Rangoon for 44 townships and for the whole region of Rangoon, we will expand it up to 800 towers,” he added.
The state-run MPT for years had a monopoly on the mobile market in Burma and limited SIM card sales, resulting in a black market for the technology that put mobile communications out of reach for most Burmese consumers. The government awarded Telenor and Ooredoo the contracts to set up rival networks in June 2013, and the companies received licenses early this year allowing them to roll out their services.
Telenor said it aims to distribute its SIM cards in parts of Irrawaddy, Sagaing, Magwe and Pegu divisions, as well as Karen, Mon and Shan states, in December.
Correction: The original story incorrectly stated that Katja Nordgaard—not Ann Ollestad—attended the Telnor launch. Nordgaard, Norway’s former ambassador to Burma, now works for Telenor.