The Myanmar (Burma) - Telecoms, Mobile & Internet report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.
Myanmar’s telecommunications sector continues to be dominated by the state-owned monopoly telephone service provider, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). With the government’s conservative approach to structural reform, it was not surprising that MPT continues to maintain its monopoly over the telecom sector, being the sole national telephone network operator.
MPT drafted a 20-year master plan the period 1990 to 2010 and under this plan a range of different projects have been implemented over the years to improve the underdeveloped network. The expansion has been characterised, however, by a somewhat erratic rate of progress. Nevertheless, the country has managed to move from around 100,000 installed fixed lines to an estimated one million in 2008. Over the same time period the number of fixed-line subscribers increased from 76,000 to an estimated 800,000. Despite this tenfold increase, however, by 2009 the country’s fixed-line penetration was still less than 2%.
The dispersion of network infrastructure has been heavily biased towards the cities, with Yangon and Mandalay having estimated telephone penetrations of 6% and 4% respectively. According to the ITU, the official waiting list for telephone services stood at 106,000 by end-2004. (There has been no updated figure published since then.) The installation of new telephone services could often take years. The official waiting time for a telephone line was 3.6 years. This was despite the fact that MPT said it had been expanding the network by approximately 15% each year. To catch up on demand, it was estimated that MPT would need to install more than 500,000 new telephone lines. This would represent a capital investment of around US$600 million - money that was simply not available.
Foreign investment in the telecom sector continued to stay low, due to the political situation in Myanmar, the structure of the country’s telecom industry and the general state of the economy, this also being despite the government’s attempts to increase foreign interest. Investment in the telecom sector has been running at less than US$6 million per year. By mid-2008 most villages in Myanmar were still without a fixed-line telephone service. “Over 6,000 villages in Burma have no phone lines. They have never heard the dial tone,” admitted an engineer from Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications in 2005.
However, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) that rules the country has declared via its website that it has been making ‘all-out efforts’ for the development and improvement in the telecom sector. ‘As regards telephone communications, auto-telephones were already being installed. Now, one can make telephone contact inside and outside Myanmar quite conveniently’, the website claimed. It also added ‘Since the communication sector plays an important role in all round development, the necessary improvements such as installation of microwave telephone exchanges in many townships and introducing of mobile phones via satellite communication offered people easy access. In other words, it is an easy access even to the remotest areas in Mandalay’. Of course, the website did not offer any statistics on the number of telecom (either fixed line or mobile) subscribers in the country. An unfortunate by-product of the government’s conservative approach has been that official, up-to-date statistics continue to be hard to come by.
Note: Key highlights for the Myanmar market are based on estimated figures and conjecture as the administration continues to either not issue information or issue contradictory information.
Myanmar’s mobile market, after reportedly growing at an annual rate in excess of 40% in 2007, continued the pattern in 2008 with a 38% jump in subscribers.
Of course, this mobile subscriber growth was from a low base and the estimated 400,000 mobile subscribers early in 2009 still only constituted a penetration of 8%.
Fixed-line subscriber numbers continue to ease upwards with annual growth appearing to be around 10% in the 2008/09 period. Penetration remained low, however, still down below 2%.
Internet penetration also continues to be disconcertingly low with accurate figures hard to obtain. Certainly, Internet penetration was below 2 subscribers per 10,000 of population coming into 2009.
While Myanmar still needs to seriously address regulatory reform, there was no evidence that any real progress had been made on this front in 2008/09.Myanmar (Burma) - key telecom parameters - 2008 - 2009
Category20082009 (e) Fixed-line services:
Total number of subscribers1800,000900,000
Fixed-line penetration (population)1.6%1.8%
Fixed-line penetration (household)7%8%
Total number of subscribers18,0008,500
Internet subscriber penetration (population)0.02%0.02%
Total number of subscribers375,800450,000
Mobile penetration (population)7%9%
Note: 1Estimates for both 2008 and 2009.
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Myanmar (Burma). Subjects covered include:
Market and Industry Overviews;
Major Operators (Mobile and Fixed)