Myanmar officially awarded the country’s fourth mobile licence to a venture between Vietnam’s Viettel and a consortium of local companies operating under the name Myanmar National Tele & Communications (MNTC).
According to the Myanmar Times, the new company won’t launch service until 2018 as it will take at least 12 months to build out its network, and it hasn’t revealed its brand name. The licence will be valid for 15 years and can be renewed for an additional ten years. The terms will be the same as the licences given to Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo in 2013.
Viettel, with plans to build out a nationwide 3G network, was named the foreign partner for a consortium of 11 companies, which said it will invest $1.5 billion to roll out a network in the 900MHz and 2.1GHz bands. The consortium, Myanmar National Telecom, is a subsidiary of military-run Myanmar Economic Corp called Star High, the newspaper said.
The Ministry of Transport and Communication opened a tender at the end of 2015, with Viettel one of seven foreign bidders expressing interest.
Military-run Viettel, which is Vietnam’s largest mobile operator, said last year it aims to reach nationwide coverage within the first year of operation and extend access to 95 per cent of the population within three years.
Since Myanmar was opened up to foreign competition in late 2013, the country’s mobile connections have jumped from 7.6 million to 51 million, with SIM penetration now nearing 70 per cent. State-owned MPT had about 22 million connections at the end of 2016, while Telenor had 19 million and Ooredoo had about 9.6 million, according to GSMA Intelligence.
However, the market the fourth player faces will be very different than the one Telenor and Ooredoo entered nearly three years ago. Myanmar is reaching the next phase of its mobile journey: from one of the last frontier markets to a maturing emerging market.
Because the market is more mature, the government set the price for the fourth licence at just $300 million. Ooredoo spent about $1 billion and Telenor paid just over $500 million after a sealed tender, the Myanmar Times reported.
MPT, which signed a joint operating agreement with KDDI and Sumitomo in 2014, plans to invest $2 billion over the next ten years to expand coverage and prepare for more intense competition, and Telenor said in October it would continue to expand coverage across the country with plans to add nearly 4,000 towers in the next two years to take its total to more than 10,000 sites.