In a bid to change the public image of a nation that has until recently been considered a pariah, Myanmar is making a significant push to improve its status in the investment community, announcing today a tender for two national telecom licenses that will end in June.
With a penetration rate of less than 9% compared with Cambodia’s 70% and Thailand’s 110%, Myanmar’s fledgling mobile market presents an incredible opportunity for growth. This will be the country’s first big tender for international companies since the new government of Thein Sein began to open up to the world in March 2011.
According to the bidding announcement, the first two of four planned licenses will be issued by June, running up to as much as 20 years each with renewal opportunities. Myanmar is one of the last markets to open up in the world, and with a population of approximately 55-60 million there will be fierce competition for the tender.
The bidding process will be an important test for Myanmar, a country that arouses suspicion from the investment community stemming from a general distrust and a relative lack of experience. Many wonder if Myanmar is capable of running a proper bidding process.
If the bid runs smoothly, expect investment to explode. Among the companies already showing interest in Myanmar are Russia’s Vimpelcom, Norway’s Telenor, Vietna’s VNPT-Fujitsu, Malaysia’s Axiata, and the Caribbean’s Digicel.
In addition to this announcement, on Monday HTC indicated its interest to enter Myanmar’s market with Burmese localized phones. Until recently, most mobile phones in Myanmar have been severely limited by their absence of native language support, and Burmese have had to manually install third-party software that violated their warranties.
HTC’s move to create Burmese specific phones will see them run up against Samsung, who will be their only competitor at least in the beginning. Samsung has had extensive operations in the country.