Viettel partners with Yatanarpon in $800M Myanmar project

Vietnam's Viettel Global plans to invest $800 million (€644 million) in building telecoms infrastructure in Myanmar and has confirmed that state-backed Internet service provider Yatanarpon Teleport will be its local partner in the project.

According to Reuters, the two companies are now waiting for approval from Yatanarpon's management after finalising talks with Viettel's board. Citing unnamed officials, Reuters reported that the total investment in the project would rise to between $1.8 billion and $2 billion.

Such a move would put Viettel Global and Yatanarpon in direct competition with Ooredoo and Telenor--which this year launched competing mobile services in Myanmar--as well as with state-owned Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).

Telenor officially launched commercial services on Sept. 27, following Ooredoo's launch in August. MPT is also upgrading its network with help from Japanese companies KDDI and Sumitomo Corp. and said it anticipates adding "millions of new users by 2016."

Yatanarpon is understood to hold the fourth telecoms licence for the country, Reuters noted.

"It will be tough for them to compete with the existing operators," Aung Tha, CEO of Khine Thit Sar, which is working on the MPT upgrade, told Reuters. "They have no infrastructure, they will have to start from scratch."

With a population of around 60 million, of which less than 10 per cent had access to mobile services prior to the new launches, Myanmar represents a strong business opportunity for operators.

However, the market is fraught with difficulties: already, Telenor Myanmar has discovered that contractors constructing its mobile network have been using child labour, while in June, Buddhist monks called for consumers in Myanmar to boycott Ooredoo because the company is headquartered in Qatar, where the majority of people follow Islam.

Cynthia Gordon, chief digital services officer at Ooredoo, said during a keynote session at the TM Forum Live conference in France in June that Ooredoo has also been forced to take unusual measures to deploy its network in Myanmar, such as using oxen to carry equipment, while new solutions such as community hubs have to be considered for charging mobile phones because of the limited electricity coverage.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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