New international cable company MYTHIC to compete with MPT

A new cable company has promised to establish the market price for international connectivity in Myanmar by laying its own cable, according to its founder and CEO U Myo Myint Ohn.

Campana Group, based in Singapore with a Yangon subsidiary, will deliver international connectivity, a reliable submarine network and massive capacity at an economical price, U Myo Myint Ohn said. The firm’s MYTHIC cable project joins others currently in the works and aims to disrupt the effective monopoly state-owned incumbent Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) enjoys in doling out international capacity.

The telco, as part of a consortium, currently runs the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable, which connects Myanmar to 33 other countries around the world. Soon, MPT will operate SEA-ME-WE 5, which will link up with 17 other countries.

U Myo Myint Ohn said MPT has held the key to international capacity and sold it to internet service providers at an “exorbitant” price.

“Even to this day, their prices are considered ridiculous,” he continued. “We’re bringing in another international gateway … whereby we’re going to provide economical, reliable capacity at a wholesale level to all the carriers including MPT, and that will in turn allow these guys to offer cheap mobile broadband services to the consumer.”

However, MPT said building cable in a consortium can reduce each member’s expense, and that each party’s expertise on home markets smoothes construction, operation and maintenance, resulting in high quality telco services at competitive prices.

Campana takes on MPT’s past, present and future as its cable snakes into the space occupied by legacy cable SEA-ME-WE 3 and its impending successor, SEA-ME-WE 5. The MPT cable, slated to start service by the second half of next year, will have more capacity than its predecessor and will help Myanmar connect to the internet if cuts occur on SEA-ME-WE 3, according to MPT.

MYTHIC – an acronym for Myanmar-Malaysia-Thailand Internet Connectivity – will differentiate on pricing and reliability, according to U Myo Myint Ohn.

Cable cuts seem to be part of life in Myanmar. U Myo Myint Ohn said cable spanning land in Myanmar where feelings toward the government are less than fuzzy can get cut. “That happens a lot behind the Thai-Myanmar borders connecting at Myawaddy,” U Myo Myint Ohn said. “It goes to the KNU land – if they’re not happy with the government … they just decide to cut it there and then.”

SEA-ME-WE 3 has also experienced outages. MPT said fault frequency varies by location, and pins most cuts in shallow waters on fishing activities – but also that there have been few faults observed in the past off of Myanmar.

In December, Campana submitted its application for a Network Facilities Service (Individual) licence, which U Myo Myint Ohn said provides blanket approval. Construction – which will cost between US$60 million and US$80 million – will start in April and the cable will go live in August of 2016, he said.

The company plans for MYTHIC to run from Myanmar to Malaysia and Thailand, from which points it can connect to the rest of the world, according to U Myo Myint Ohn.

“We’ve got investors and strategic partners … We’re going to be selling capacity to Telenor, Ooredoo, YTP and all the other hundreds of local ISPs that are now coming onboard,” U Myo Myint Ohn said. “We’ll be selling to the bigger Myanmar market and we’re going to open up that competition.”

“Effectively, when we give prices, we are establishing the market cost for international connectivity.”

Meanwhile, another Myanmar player has been working to set up international links to the worldwide web: Telenor.

Telenor head of communications, Hanne Knudsen, said the firm finalised its fibre to Thailand – which links straight to Telenor’s Thai subsidiary, DTAC – earlier this month, but is currently beta testing the connection. The company targets operating the cable at “full capacity” by February’s end.

“[We] want to share, swap or lease fibre with all operators in the market as it means lower cost, faster rollout and added protection when there are fibre cuts on a particular line,” she said, adding it is unclear whether Telenor will lease its own capacity as the fibre is still undergoing testing.

Like Campana, Telenor will help diversify Myanmar’s connections to the internet with its cable.

“I see the fibre market in the same as when the mobile market was opened up to competition,” she said. “Competition is good – it ultimately benefits the consumer as the choice is wider and the prices come down.”


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