Pandemonium breaks out at mobile shops as MPT slashes SIM prices

Customers have been pushing and shoving each other in lines outside mobile-phone shops in Yangon and Mandalay since Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) began selling SIM cards for K 1,500 apiece on September 1, customers said.

The price cut follows a move by its first foreign rival, Myanmar Ooredoo, which began selling SIM cards at that price last month.

The cards are being sold at select mobile phone shops in downtown Yangon and Mandalay, forcing customers from the suburbs to travel downtown.

Pandemonium broke out at some shops in downtown Mandalay, causing some to shut their doors. Customers were told to hand over copies of their national registration cards and wait outside for their names to be called.

“There were so many buyers that the shop closed its doors and asked customers to give copies of their national registration cards,” one customer in Mandalay said. “Then, they called out names and let those people into the shop to buy a SIM,” he added.

Other customers said some shops had sold all of their MPT Ks 1,500 SIM cards by this morning.

“It’s better to sell SIM cards at mobile shops instead of through lotteries, but it is not good to see so many people pushing and shoving each other to buy a SIM card,” one customer said. It would have been better for MPT to expand the number of shops it sells its SIM cards at, she added.

MPT is offering about 700,000 SIM cards through 13 companies, 22 sales representatives and many retail shops, MPT executives said. The SIM cards are for its WCDMA network and do no include Internet access, according to a marketing director from the company.

“Later we will upgrade to 3G and 4G networks. The [call] rates are unchanged but there is no Internet subscription,” the executive said. “We are expanding our infrastructure and if we finish upgrading, Internet subscription will be included like it is on Ooredoo’s SIM cards,” he added.

Buyers, however, can upgrade the SIM cards for Internet use through Elite Tech Company for a fee of Ks 10,000. The SIM cards are primarily being sold in downtown Yangon and Mandalay, which is drawing buyers from the suburbs to the cities’ centres.

A mobile phone owner in Yangon’s Bahan Township who uses his handset to surf the Net said he thought MPT would attract more buyers than Ooredoo because Ooredoo’s network is “not as good as expected”.

Customers are also complaining that Ooredoo charges customers for a full minute even if the call is just for a few seconds, and that its Internet rates are expensive. Customers have also been attracted to MPT’s new SIMs by talk that the operator plans to reduce its rates for voice calls.

Ooredoo technicians say they are aware of the gaps in their coverage areas and that they are working fast to fill them, while expanding their network coverage. They say Internet access is five times faster on their network than it is on MPT’s because they have their own cable linking their network to Singapore, and that they plan to have 11 million SIM cards on the market by year-end.


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