The liberalisation of Myanmar’s poorly funded and under developed media and telecommunications sector has already begun. The government has stated that four telecom operating licences will eventually be granted indicating that two will be allocated to Burmese companies while the other two will be allocated to foreign firms capable of providing 4G services.
It is anticipated that Myanmar’s State Posts and Telecommunication department (the “MPT”) will be abolished and reformed as Myanmar Telecom, which will operate without funding from the government. Similarly it is envisaged that Yatanarpon Teleport will be merged into a new company named Yatanarpon Telecom. The new entities will participate in joint ventures with local companies and experienced telecommunication providers from overseas.
Myanmar has some of the lowest internet and fixed and mobile phone penetration rates in the Asia. It also suffers from a network interconnection problem and a chronic lack of base stations (almost all of which are situated in or around the commercial hub of Yangon or the capital Naypyidaw) which limits its capacity. The challenge facing the sector is significant. Entrants into the market will need to make long a long term commitment to see returns on their investments.
Failure to bring Myanmar’s media and telecommunications infrastructure up to date is likely to discourage potential investors and be a brake on the country’s overall growth. New laws and regulations must strike the right balance between encouraging investment and promoting competition. Universal access, affordability and connectivity are also paramount if Myanmar’s future is to be one in which all citizen can participate equally.