SACS, the first South Atlantic Cable System

There are now three leading telecom operators in Myanmar, i.e., MPT, Telenor Myanmar, Ooredoo Myanmar.  In 2018, telecom market in Myanmar is going to enter a new era. Two new telecom operators, MyTel & Ananda, announced to offer 4G services in Myanmar. MyTel & Ananda is going to change games for telecom market in Myanmar.

Mytel had a ceremony in Nay Pyi Daw to initiate its first call and officially launched its 4G network on February 10th.

Mytel is a joint venture of Star High Public Co Ltd which owns 28% stake, a consortium of eleven local companies that own 23% and Vietnam‘s Viettel which owns the remaining 49%. Mytel is the 10th mobile network launched outside of Vietnam by Viettel. The Vietnam’s largest mobile network operator focus on expanding in emerging countries and has a reputation of being extremely aggressive price-wise.

Mytel was awarded a mobile license in Myanmar in January 2017. Mytel operates a 4G-only mobile network which covers 90% of the country by the time of the launch and that it will start selling SIM cards next month. Mytel is planning to deploy 7,200 base stations, backed up by 33,000km of optic fiber cabling. Mytel also plans to utilize capacity on the Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) subsea cable for its international traffic. China Unicom is the landing party in Myanmar for AAE-1

Amara Communication was awarded 20Mhz of 2.6Ghz spectrum in October 2016. This allocation is a perfect fit for TDD-LTE, a technology used worldwide for 4G mobile broadband. Ananda was expected to launch its 4G services months ago, but it was delayed.

It is said, Amara does not own a license for full fledge mobile services and will not be able to offer calls and SMS services like a mobile operator. The service will be limited to mobile broadband and any value added service sitting on top of broadband. Amara will use the TDD-LTE mobile technology exclusively to build a broadband network. That means that the broadband service offered by Ananda will be mobile. It will probably take the shape of a mobile router or hotspot like the mobile operators currently sell in the market. But the plans sold on these new devices will be exclusively data-based. Customers could expect large plans with high speed that will allow them to replace their home broadband service.

Amara new brand is modestly called Ananda : Infinite in Myanmar. That is an inspiring marketing concept which definitely set some expectations considering mobile broadband is by essence limited. Limited in time and usually limited in volume. It will be interesting to see how Ananda will play around these limitations without making offense to its name.

According to a recent survey by We Are Social, Myanmar just reached 101% penetration on mobile. Mobile data prices in Myanmar are already at an extremely low level compared to international standards. In December 2017, the three active mobile operators in Myanmar even decided to increase their prices back to sustain their network expansion. The current blended rate for mobile data in Myanmar is around $1 per GB.

When Mytel and Amara step into the mobile and data market in Myanmar, the game will be significantly changed. Myanmar ISP’s got into a big price war, subsidizing the installation costs heavily. Some of the ISP’s in the market are on the verge to collapse and are desperately playing all in, taking inconsiderate risk to acquire and retain new customers.

There are definitely more competitors, there is still a big market opportunity for telecom business in Myanmar.