Telenor said it now has 6.4 million mobile customers in Myanmar, placing the Norway-based operator well ahead of rival Ooredoo Myanmar's 3.3 million subscribers reported at the end of the first quarter of 2015.
In a presentation by Telenor Mynamar CEO Petter Borre Furberg this week, the company also said its network now covers over 50 per cent of the population, while 58 per cent of the customer base uses mobile data. Telenor's target is to reach 90 per cent population coverage in five years.
Furberg added that all mobile operators now active in the country have driven up mobile penetration to around 42 per cent. That is certainly a huge improvement on the around 10 per cent penetration rate before Telenor and Ooredoo launched services last year.
"It's been quite a journey," commented Furberg.
Looking ahead, Furberg said Telenor Myanmar plans to expand into more rural and ethnic areas as well as increase local language content. It also aims to start offering money transfer services from the second half of this year.
However, Furberg by no means underestimates the challenges that lie ahead, and he outlined six main areas of risk that continue to face Telenor. These include corruption, institutional capacity (the ability of government to implement processes and take decisions, for example), the legal framework, land issues (such as land ownership matters), supply chain sustainability and ethnic states.
A key focus area for Telenor is to help eradicate child labour, which is firmly entrenched within Myanmar's society and often difficult to monitor and detect. The company is helping to provide non-formal education to 13-16 year olds, and has partnered with the Myanmar Mobile Education Project (myME).
Meanwhile Ooredoo has just appointed a new CEO for its Myanmar business. Rene Meza is replacing Ross Cormack, who has taken the decision to leave his position later this year. Meza currently holds the position of managing director of Vodacom Tanzania.
In March, Ovum said Telenor and Ooredoo's entry into Myanmar helped drive up mobile subscriptions by 87.4 per cent year-on-year to 10.7 million at end-September 2014, and pushed up mobile penetration to 19.9 per cent from 12.5 per cent at end-2013.
According to the global analyst firm's forecasts, mobile subscriptions will grow at a CAGR of 21 per cent to reach 38.5 million at end-2019, up from 14.8 million at end-2014, as operators expand their networks to new cities and rural areas.
Other players on the Myanmar mobile market include Vietnam's Viettel Global, which plans to invest $800 million (€711 million) in building telecoms infrastructure in Myanmar together with state-backed Internet service provider Yatanarpon Teleport, and state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).
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