IN RESPONSE to the constraints of mobile data availability beyond the major cities in Myanmar, Telenor Myanmar will continue to expand its 4G rollout and the company's teams of representatives, said chief executive Sharad Mehrotra.
Mehrotra said at the 6th Sustainable Business Briefing on Friday that the firm would focus on improving mobile connectivity through its extensive 4G network and empowering its employees ahead of the launch of 5G.
“5G will come for sure at some point of time. We are now focusing on 4G, and at the same time we also keep an eye on how we can bring 5G to Myanmar,” he said.
According to Mehrotra, the firm has invested more than US$2.7 billion in its network, and will continue to invest in the growth of its employees. Telenor Myanmar currently has more than 800 employees across the nation, 40 per cent women with 30 per cent in leadership positions.
“Data consumption is very high, particularly in Yangon and the Mandalay regions. It is at the same level as in European countries,” he said.
“It is also increasing in smaller cities. As we travel across Myanmar, we see a big demand for data services all over the country, we make sure most of the areas are 4G-covered, and all the sites have 4G capacity.”
Mehrotra takes pride in providing the largest 4G network in Myanmar for more than 18 million subscribers despite the company switching on its mobile network only in September 2014, much later than its main rival MPT. To date, the firm has more than 8,600 sites nationwide, with 5,600 of them deploying 4G.
“Our network now covers 92 per cent of the population. In terms of geographical coverage, we have covered all states and regions and 307 townships, representing 90 per cent of all townships in Myanmar,” he said.
“This is served by the large distribution footprint of more than 100,000 points of sales, reaching out to customers by selling a wide range of our products and services. As we progress, we will enhance our services based on our experience on the ground.”
Mehrotra focuses on improving customers’ experience rather than being the first to bring 5G to Myanmar. Yet, he reiterated the telco’s commitment to 5G readiness in the nation, citing a joint network speed trail in collaboration with Ericsson which achieved 1Gbps internet speed on its network.
“Minor rollout challenges remain due to security issues in Shan State but we have witnessed tangible improvement in serving ethnic areas,” he said.
“With the assistance of our state liaison officers, we collaborate closely with ethnic groups to explain the benefits of connectivity in their areas.”
According to Mehrotra, empowering its workforce lies at the heart of Telenor’s strategy. High-performing employees are selected to attend executive development programmes at top universities including the London Business School, and 117 employees were part of the programmes last year.
“Last year, our employees spent an average of 45 hours learning new skills, and a total of 37,000 hours on their long-term career development,” he said.
The firm also provides trainings on digital literacy as well as transport safety, and nearly one million people in Myanmar have benefited from its corporate social responsibility programmes focusing on education and health.
For Myanmar people travelling aboard, the firm has launched its low-cost data roaming packs in three Asean countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
“We will expand this service in the region, and we may launch packs that cater to those visiting European countries,” he said.