The Myanmar government plans to offer new mobile operators in Myanmar just 10MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, TMT Finance has learnt.
Telcos considering a move into the Myanmar mobile market have slammed the decision, with the allocation unlikely to facilitate data services and LTE, according to Enda Hardiman, managing director, Hardiman Telecommunications.
A total of four new concessions are up for grabs: two joint venture opportunities with incumbents Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and Yatanarpon Teleport – as well as two new mobile licences.
While further terms are still under wraps, it is thought that incumbent state-owned MPT will receive 15MHz in 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHZ; while the two new players will be granted 10MHz in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz.
“10MHz in those three bands will be very restrictive, and completely inadequate for data and LTE. It simply cannot be done! Operators are not at all happy, and there will certainly continue to be a lot of lobbying behind the scenes,” said Hardiman.
The remaining incumbent Yatanarpon Teleport is thought to have been offered 40MHz in the 2600MHz band – which Hardiman said would give the telco ‘a very clear run at the upper end of the market.’
Meanwhile, TMT Finance also learnt that three government advisers have been appointed, according to an industry source who did not wish to be named. The three parties are two law firms: Webb Henderson and Macmillan Keck; and German consultancy firm Roland Berger.
The source said that Roland Berger was a surprise choice due to its lack of experience in the telecoms industry. However, the firm is believed to be pouring more resources into the sector – and earlier this year landed a due diligence role for CVC’s acquisition of Hong Kong Broadband.
A total of 60 finance consultants were also named in a ‘loosely defined’ invitation-to-tender list published by the government, according to an industry source, who expected an investment bank or accountancy company to land the government finance advisory role.
More announcements on key clarifications are set for March 2013, according to industry insiders, with SingTel still looking to be leading the race to grab one of the four concessions on offer.
Bharti Airtel had also been linked to the country, although a source said major Bharti shareholder SingTel would be a more likely choice, due to it being viewed as a more credible brand. Singapore’s attractive political and geographic ties with Myanmar are also seen to be a major plus.
Vimpelcom is also in the running, said the source, with Russia continuing to strengthen ties with the Myanmar government – most notably in its push to enter the oil and gas industry in the country.
Axiata is also said to be ‘very keen’ on a mobile licence, while Irish businessman Denis O'Brien’s Caribbean telco Digicel is also aiming to pick up a licence, and is apparently already successfully integrating with local businesses in Myanmar, according to another source.
The local IT industry is also reported to be lobbying hard in the country following the release of telecommunications bill which was released in November, which requires all telecommunications businesses to hold a licence – including e-commerce and app developing businesses and individuals. Key IT representatives said the law would risk harming the growth of the sector and harm freedom of creation and small enterprises.