Telenor faces Vietnam’s Viettel JV challenge in Myanmar

Telenor Myanmar, saddled with mammoth task of creating infrastructure for mobile services across Myanmar, faces yet another challenge from cash-rich Viettel — Vietnam’s state-owned telecom company — moving ahead to form a joint venture with Myanmar’s Yatanarpon Teleport.

Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg said the company always knew Myanmar would be challenging because it had been closed for 50 years and developing telecom infrastructure has never been easy.

Besides Telenor Myanmar and Yatanarpon Teleport, Qatar’s telecom group Ooredoo won airwaves through state auction in February last year. While Yatanarpon Teleport and Viettel JV will bring investment of $1.8 billion, Telenor will spend $500 million in next five years.

“The biggest challenge we have faced is primarily in rolling out towers. Starting a mobile operation is a project plan of 5,000 to 6,000 different activities. Majority of these plans went well because we brought in experts from other countries. But while building towers we faced challenges,” said Furberg.

Besides Myanmar, Telenor operates in five other Asian countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand — with 160.4 million subscribers. Telenor Myanmar contributes services to 0.3 million subscribers. The company has roped in largee number of its employees from these Asian countries where they operate for their Myanmar operations.

“Myanmar is the last greenfield in the world. It has been closed for 50 years. Its infrastructure is in poor shape. Electricity covers only 25% of 51 million people.”

The CEO said: “When we started operations in September last year, the telecom density of Myanmar was less than 10% (now around 11%). We currently service three cities Yangon, Mandalay and Myanmar’s new capital Nay Pyi Taw.”

“We ended 2014 with 1,050 base stations. We expect to cover all 15 division and states by the end of this year,” said Sharad Mehrotra, the chief marketing officer of Telenor Myanmar.

“We are building a business of a low cost model which we would be able to sustain it. We expect the ARPU (Average Revenue per User) what we see in Bangladesh and lower circles in India. In the long run we expect the ARPU in Myanmar at $2-$3 to sustain our business after rolling out services in Rural and other areas of the country” he added.


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