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Myanmar to open telecoms to foreigners

Two licenses up for tender

One of Asia’s last closed telecommunications markets is to loosen up, with Myanmar announcing its tender for two telecommunications licenses will be open to foreign companies.

The nation is hoping for a rapid expansion of its telecommunications sector and services, with an ambitious target from today’s 10 percent mobile penetration to reach 75-80 percent by 2016. Fixed line coverage in the country is around one percent.

The tender is part of Myanmar’s process of opening up after decades of isolation. The first two licenses are to be issued by June 2013, with the government planning another two licenses in the future.

The Financial Times reports that VimpelCom (Russia), Telenor (Norway), VNPT-Fujitsu (Vietnam), Axiata (Malaysia) and Digicel (the Caribbean) have all expressed interest in the market.

The ministry of Communications and IT says the tender is designed to “make the telecommunications services available to the public at affordable prices, and to give the public the capability of choice”.

In a separate tender notice, the ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is seeking consultants to help it manage the tender process. In particular, the ministry states, the consultants should help ensure its handling of the process complies with “international rules and regulations for tender bidding” and to ensure transparency of the process.

Myanmar also opened its borders to other IT concerns last year, sparking a flurry of office openings from tech companies keen to cash in on a market expected, thanks to a growing and youth-weighted population, to represent a decent growth opportunity in coming years. ®

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