Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor received the first ever operating licenses for the development of telecoms systems in Burma on Thursday as both companies penned agreements with Burma’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in Naypyidaw.
The hotly contested bidding process took place last year, drawing more than 92 letters of interest from companies around the globe. Since the announcement of winning bids, Burma’s Parliament has approved its first Telecoms Law. This final step allows the companies to begin rolling out operations in the country.
“Ooredoo firmly believes in the transformative power of mobile communications services and we have committed to making next-generation mobile technology available and accessible to as many people as possible in Myanmar,” said Ooredoo Group CEO Nasser Marafih in a company statement.
DVB Interview International recently spoke with Ooredoo Myanmar CEO Ross Cormack about the company’s future in Burma’s frontier tech market.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Cormack, “telecommunications is key to growing economies.”
With an estimated population of 60 million, only about ten percent percent of people in Burma have cellular telephone service. Internet penetration is thought to be around one percent, among the world’s least connected. Cormack said that Ooredoo has pledged to eventually offer mobile coverage to 97 percent of the country.
“I’ve touched on telecoms reaching out to nearly everybody in the country and this will give people the opportunity to stay in touch and have human communications,” he said. “But even more importantly it will get them more opportunities for work, and to speed up the development of other industries.”
Ooredoo has promised to begin rollout within six months, starting with increasing urban coverage, and eventually moving out to rural areas, which comprise about 70 percent of Burma’s land mass. Cormack said that the expansion of telecoms could bring great opportunities to rural populations, like useful applications for farmers
“There’ll be products for the agricultural sector as well as we go out into the rural areas,” said Cormack. “Just as we’ve launched in Indonesia for example, so people can see what crop prices are and when to plant.”
As Ooredoo begins to implement the rapid overhaul of Burma’s communications infrastructure, they have partnered with Yoma Strategic Holdings, Ltd, a Burmese company owned by Serge Pun, to build towers in the country’s as yet inaccessible regions.
“We are going to be ensuring that we have the best possible services delivered in an ethical and clean and proper manner. We will reach out to local communities to help us distribute, to help us operate and maintain the towers and so forth,” said Cormack.