Burma on Thursday awarded its fourth and final telecoms licence to a joint venture between Vietnamese telecom company Viettel and two local firms, heating up competition in a rapidly growing market by adding a second majority-Burmese operator.
Military-run Viettel will have a 49 percent stake in the new venture called Myanmar National Tele & Communications Co. Ltd., while its local partners, Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public and Star High Public Company, will hold 23 and 28 percent respectively.
The venture is an unusual case of cooperation between businesses controlled by the Burmese and Vietnamese militaries, as Star High Public Company’s mother company, the reclusive Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., belongs to the Burma Army.
The drawn-out selection process had started before the government of Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in April and while Viettel’s involvement has been known for a while, the highly anticipated official ceremony only took place on Thursday.
Minister of Transport and Communications Thant Sin Maung said in the capital Naypyidaw that the operator “will help advance telecommunications in townships, rural mountain towns and will contribute to improving transportation, healthcare and education necessary for the people living in rural areas.”
The liberalisation of Burma’s telecoms sector has been a rare example of successful reform since the military ceded power in 2011, with the entry and rapid expansion of Norwegian operator Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo.
Viettel, which operates in several countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas, said in April it planned to invest $1.5 billion in Burma’s telecoms.
The licence is valid for 15 years and can be renewed.
The new company will become the second Burmese-majority telecoms operator after Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), a state-owned provider that has partnered with Japan’s KDDI Corp. to improve its services.