Ooredoo Myanmar coverage hit by strong demand for service

Ooredoo is building new base stations on a daily basis in Myanmar to match strong demand for its service, which it launched commercially on Friday.

The Qatar-based operator became the first foreign company to launch mobile services in Myanmar, with a network initially covering the country's three main cities--Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw--and 68 other towns. Ooredoo is pitching consumers on the quality of its voice calls and Internet access over its 900 MHz 3G network, which it said lays "a solid foundation" for future deployment of LTE services.

"A little over a year ago, we committed to breaking down all the barriers that limited the people of Myanmar's access to high quality voice calls and a fast internet experience," Ooredoo's CEO, Nasser Marafih, said, adding, "We connect families and communities, we power innovation and we help youth fulfil their potential. Our vision is to enrich the lives of all the people of Myanmar and from what I have seen of the past two weeks we really are starting to deliver on this vision."

Marafih was referring to a pre-commercial network launch that saw Ooredoo make its service available for free in Myanmar's three major cities on Aug. 3.

The company's network is currently available to 7.8 million of the country's estimated 60 million population. While Ooredoo aims to cover 25 million people with its service by the end of 2014, it conceded strong initial demand means coverage is likely to remain patchy until it can construct more base stations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ooredoo executives told the Journal that 14 million users requested access to one of its Yangon base stations alone, prompting it to build new sites daily.

While subscribers are reportedly queuing round the block outside Ooredoo retailers, the operator is already facing criticism of its voice and data prices from analysts and customers. Ooredoo is offering up to 30 MB of Internet access for MMK500 (€0.38/$0.51) per day, leaving high-usage customers facing charges of around MMK15,000 per month, local news site Eleven Myanmar stated.

Ooredoo's licence terms--along with that of rival Telenor, which is set to become Myanmar's second foreign operator in September--oblige it to sell SIM cards for MMK1,500.

The Qatar-based operator said it plans to release more services and bundles now its service is up and running.

For more:
- read Ooredoo's release
- see this Wall Street Journal article
- read this Eleven Myanmar report

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