Orange's Myanmar hopes fade as Telenor, Ooredoo unveil pricing

Any hopes that runner-up Orange may still have of obtaining one of the two licences in the untapped and potentially highly lucrative mobile market of Myanmar will have faded further this week after the two successful applicants unveiled more details about prices and rollout schedules.

In a release issued by Myanmar's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), Norway's Telenor and Qatar's Ooredoo both reiterated their commitment to a rapid rollout of services at affordable prices and said they would charge around 1,500 kyat ($1.53) for a SIM card--almost 200 times less than the current cost of a SIM at more than $200. Ooredoo also said it would provide a free SIM card under one of its offers.

Telenor said it plans to build a nationwide HSPA and LTE network within five years, and it is targeting 83 per cent coverage for voice and 78 per cent coverage for data after five years. The operator expects to launch a full range of voice and data services by the second quarter of 2014. Other targets of the Norwegian operator include 70,000 points of sale for SIM cards and 95,000 for top ups.

Ooredoo has committed to nationwide geographic coverage of 84 per cent (both voice and data) after five years and said it will provide 240,000 points of sale for SIM cards and 720,000 for top-ups.

As for the all-important issue of service pricing, Telenor plans to charge up to 25 kyat ($0.03) per minute for calls, while Ooredoo has committed to up to 35 kyat ($0.04) per minute for on-net calls and 45 kyat ($0.05) per minute for off-net calls.

Both operators have also committed to a range of value-added services to help the country's future development, such as mobile money and mobile health services. Ooredoo, for example, said it would invest around $60 million in corporate social responsibility initiatives over the next 10 years.

"The two successful applicants have both committed to a very strong coverage of all regions and states, a dense distribution network in both urban and rural areas and a wide range of (value added) services, at low prices," the MCIT said in the statement. "Therefore, the selection of these two successful applicants will significantly contribute to the growth of the Myanmar economy and benefit Myanmar citizens across all states and regions."

Telenor and Ooredoo fended off competition from nine other groups to win the hotly contested telecoms licences in Myanmar, paving the way for the entry of foreign companies into the sector for the first time there.

A consortium consisting of Orange and Marubeni Corporation was named as the backup applicant in the event that one of the two successful applicants does not fulfil the tender requirements.

For more:
- see this MCIT release (PDF)

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