Myanmar yesterday announced plans for a dramatic increase in telephone and Internet access as it opened the door for foreign firms to enter one of Asia’s last untapped markets.
The Communications and Information Technology Ministry said it was launching tenders for two nationwide telecommunications service licenses to be awarded in the first half of this year.
It said it wanted both domestic and overseas operators to compete in the sector, seen as having major growth potential in a country where mobile phones are the preserve of a tiny proportion of the population.
The ministry said in a notice on its Web site the aim was to “make the telecommunications services available to the public at affordable prices, and to give the public the capability of choice.”
The move is part of a plan to expand telephone penetration to between 75 percent and 80 percent by 2016, from the current level of around 10 percent.
Htay Win, chief engineer from the ministry’s mobile department, said the tender was open to foreign firms because “their experience in other countries means they are more capable.”
Communications are seen as a key obstacle to development in Myanmar, one of the world’s poorest countries.
Mobile SIM cards start at about US$250, while the Internet is mainly the preserve of the urban elite.
Taiwan’s leading smartphone maker, HTC Corp (宏達電), opened its first store in Myanmar on Monday to sell handsets with Burmese-language characters.
HTC signed a distribution contract with KMD Computer Group, Myanmar’s largest IT and mobile distributor, to sell six of its smartphones — the Butterfly, One X+, One X, Desire X, Desire and Desire C — in that country, HTC said in a statement.
HTC said it also worked with Sanmyanmar, a software developer in Myanmar, to customize Google Inc’s Android operating system for the new market.