RANGOON — The installation of a fourth generation (4G) mobile Internet network for the 27th Southeast Asian Games is complete, but only local and foreign “VIPs” and members of the media will benefit from the high-speed access during the Games, according to Burma’s national telecoms provider.
Twenty days remain until the opening ceremony of the SEA Games in Naypyidaw, the capital of a country known for its unreliable and often painstakingly slow Internet connection. With a crush of visitors expected for the Dec. 11-22 Games, the state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) began installing the latest mobile Internet network in July at the four locations where events will take place—Rangoon, Naypyidaw, Mandalay and Ngwe Saung beach.
“We installed the 4G network, and VIP and international media will be able to use the … network in venues,” Khin Maung Tun, chief engineer of MPT’s mobile phone division, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. It was not clear what would qualify an individual for VIP status, but access to the network will be limited by requiring that a password be input in order to connect.
Khin Maung Tun added that two companies were in the process of expanding Wi-Fi access for all Internet users at the venues.
“With the 4G network, photos and videos of SEA Games events can be viewed or posted in a timely manner, without waiting, so it will be really welcomed for the SEA Games,” said Theinhoke, deputy general manager at MPT.
Theinhoke said 4G access points will be available at SEA Games venues, airports, and at select accommodation for foreigners, with testing on the new network to be completed by the last week of November. Although the 4G infrastructure will remain in place after the games, no licenses to operate 4G services have yet been issued by the government.
Currently, 3G is the most advanced Internet network system in Burma. The 3G standard is the predecessor of 4G.
“The current Internet connection is not good for both IT service providers and customers. It can delay our projects’ implementation and also deter customers from buying our products. Our revenue is negatively affected since our business is mainly based on customers’ interest,” said Tin Maung Htut, technical manager of Myanmar Soft-Gate Technology, an IT service provider.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided about US$17 million to the government for a so-called Urgent Communication Networks Improvement Plan to address serious problems in network capacity and communication quality in Burma, according to a JICA statement in December.
The country’s Internet infrastructure will see unprecedented demand during the SEA Games, which Burma is hosting for the first time in 44 years. Next year the 4G network will also be put to good use when Burma hosts dozens of conferences and meetings as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
In a country that has only recently embraced the telecoms revolution that has swept the globe over the last two decades, foreign Internet users are likely to be the biggest immediate beneficiary of the high-speed connection.
“Out of the total population of Myanmar [about 60 million], only about 10 million people are using mobile communication and fewer than 3 million people are using Internet,” said Zaw Min Oo, a director at local company Barons Tele-Link Services Co Ltd.