The government says it expects to issue telecom licences to Telenor and Ooredoo by the end of the month, more than a year after the tender process to select the operators was launched.
The Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) has submitted the rules for the Telecommuniations Law to the Attorney General’s Office for approval, director U Than Tun Aung told The Myanmar Times on January 15.
Once cabinet has approved the laws the department can issue the licences to the foreign operators, he said.
“We are working on finalising five applicable rules for the Telecom Law by the end of January. We have already negotiated with foreign telecom operators about applying detailed rules and regulations of the law so they are able to start their businesses. And these five applicable rules of the law have been sent to Attorney-General Office. Later after we get approval of cabinet, we will issue telecom licenses,” said U Than Tun Aung, a director of PTD.
The rules are one of the final pieces in the jigsaw for the government as it seeks to liberalise a sector that has until now been controlled by state operator Myanma Posts and Telecommunications. The government is aiming to increase telecom density to 75-80 percent by 2015-16, up from just 7pc at the end of 2012.
On January 15, 2013, it called for expressions of interest for two telecoms licences. After short listing 12 prequalified companies and consortiums from 91 applications, Ooredoo and Telenor were selected in June.
The Telecommunications Law was then approved by parliament in October with the requirement that the five rules that accompany the law be introduced within 90 days.
Another PTD director, U Soe Naing, said the department had been unable to meet this deadline because of the complexity of the process and the need for official translations into English.
The five working groups set up to draft the rules also have “differences” of opinion that need to be resolved.
“We have to examine the differences face to face and we have to publish both English and Myanmar versions of the law. Because of these factors the process has been delayed,” said U Soe Naing.
While Telenor and Ooredoo are yet to receive their licences, Myanmar Investment Commission granted investment approval to both companies on January 8, he said.
Another closely watched issue in the telecoms sector is the future of two local providers, MPT and Yatanarpon Teleport, which are both negotiating with potential foreign partners.
“The two local operators are still discussing possible partnerships … so they will get their licences only after the foreign operators,” said U Than Tun Aung.
The partnerships are considered essential if the two companies are to compete with Telenor and Ooredoo, which are both experienced operators with global operations.
In early November, the government invited three consortiums headed by France’s Orange Group, Japan’s KDDI and Singapore’s SingTel to submit proposals for a partnership with MPT. All three responded prior to the December 5 deadline and were told an announcement would be made on December 18 but the decision was later delayed without explanation.
MPT officials say talks with prospective partners have been continuing since September 2013 but remain tight-lipped on when an announcement will be made.
“We are still discussing our options. I can’t say anything for sure as the process is still under discussion. You will know when the official announcement comes out,” managing director U Aung Maw told The Myanmar Times on January 14.
Yatanarpon, meanwhile, is also in discussions with a potential foreign partner. In preparation for the partnership, the company was transformed into a public firm last year.
“We … received permission from MIC to become a public company on December 4,” said U Tin Win, chief executive officer of Yatanarpon Teleport.
“We are now evaluating foreign firms for a partnership. We will expand our telecom services to cover the country when we get our licence.”
Source: Myanmar Times