Burma’s Mobile Phone Users to See Major Drop in Call Fees

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 June 2013

RANGOON — The deputy minister of communications says Burma’s sole provider of telecommunications services will slash mobile phone airtime fees, potentially to one-third of the current price, according to a lawmaker in Parliament’s lower house.

Thaung Tin, the deputy minister of communications, posts and telegraphs, said during the lower house session of Parliament on Friday that Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) would slash the fees to make and receive mobile phone calls, according to lawmaker Kyi Myint.

The deputy minister’s pledge came after Kyi Myint asked whether MPT would consider reducing the current fee of 50 kyats (about US 5 cents) per minute to 5 kyats.

“The vice minister replied that the airtime fee would be between 25 kyats and 15 kyats,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

Thaung Tin told Parliament that the airtime fee in Burma was two or three times higher than rates in neighboring countries, and that the ministry would consider reducing the fee to benefit the Burmese people.

He did not, however, offer a timetable for when MPT would carry out the plan, Kyi Myint said.

The announcement came one day after Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo won licenses on Thursday to also provide telecommunications services in Burma, bringing foreign companies into the sector for the first time.

Ye Myat Thu, an IT expert in Burma, said he welcomed a drop in the airtime fee but also worried that a cheaper fee would lead to an overloading of mobile phone lines.

“In other countries, the price is based on customers’ use,” he said. “The fees are not the same when you call during the day and at nighttime. When you call a number that uses the same SIM card from the telecoms provider you use, you can usually call free of charge. Now here [in Burma], only one organization fixes the fee. It sounds like we’re still in the socialist era.”