THE PROSPECTS of Myanmar experiencing a sudden boom in telecom will not be realised if the authorities failed to create a sustainable ecosystem in time, according to speakers at Myanmar Connect 2018, held on September 18-19.
Sharad Mehrotra, chief executive of Telenor Myanmar, said the most urgent thing Myanmar needs to do is to establish a sustainable ecosystem in line with international standards, and to strengthen the legal framework for the growth of the whole industry.
“Now it is time to focus on the ecosystem so that we can move forward to the next level by providing better services to our customers. We all are looking at how we can work together in this ecosystem,” he said.
Mehrotra said spectrum growth, improved regulations, cross border data and education programmes for consumers would drive the industry boom.
Zaw Min Oo, chief external relations officer of Mytel, the fourth mobile operator partnering with Vietnam’s Viettel Group, echoed Mehrotra’s view.
“Sustainable competition is really important, and we need to set up a ecosystem. We want drafted telecom laws to be enacted as soon as possible. It is very tough to work under regulations set by the department level,” he said.
He said innovative products and affordability to access data would stimulate Myanmar’s business sentiment and could lead to a very healthy growing market.
Noboru Edagawa, chief technology officer of MPT-KSGM Joint Operations, stressed the importance of education to implement Myanmar’s e-government initiative and plans for digital economy.
“Two important things need to improve at the same time. One is human and another is the system. We can improve the system in a short time but it usually takes time to educate the people,” he said.
Edagawa said government staff’s capability must be improved to ensure they effectively utilise the latest technology to fulfil customers’ needs. He added the government need to consider enlarging the role of telecom operators, as they can help build good infrastructure and bring new technologies to Myanmar in order to improve performance in the long term.
Vikram Sinha, chief executive of Ooredoo Myanmar, said stiff competition in the market has been pushing telecom operators to improve the quality of services, allowing end users to enjoy more benefits at a cheaper price.
Wai Lin Tun, co-founder and chief executive of Frontiir Co which provides Myanmar Net data services, said it is very important to ensure everyone has access to the Internet. He stressed the importance of user-friendliness in making people connected. The company targets very diverse segments of users so that poor people can also access the Internet.
Supoj Mahapan, managing director for international carrier and alliance management at True Corporation, which is cooperating with several telcos and ISPs in Myanmar, shared the same view with Wai Lin Tun. He called for lower data costs so that everyone can use the Internet.
“From the regulatory perspective, if the government makes things easier for telecom operators by reducing the costs, then it will help telcos grow their business,” he said.
Supoj said the regulator plays a key role in closer cooperation among the telecom operators, and can help newcomers connect with all players.
“That way, newcomers will stimulate the competition, and end users will benefit from that,” he said.
“It is like chicken and eggs. For most Myanmar people to access the Internet, it must be at a affordable cost. In order to do that, we need to find ways to reduce costs. Should we expand the capacity ourselves and wait for the demand or should we wait for the demand first?” he questioned.
According to Supoj, it is good for Myanmar to strengthen connectivity to attract more accountable service providers. Yet, implementation of a new system is easier said than done, he warned.
“It took us almost six years to justify a submarine cable project in Thailand . It was very difficult, and I do not see any difference in Myanmar,” he said.
“Myanmar is moving fast, and the government has done good job so far. That is why international gateway businesses find it easier to operate here. It will help Myanmar’s growth but most of the projects take time, especially submarine cables.”
Supoj said the company can help Myanmar players grow further to ensure cost-effectiveness for international connectivity.
“We need to make sure that businesses and people in Myanmar know more about True [Corporation]. I am happy to see that many homes in Myanmar have True Vision digital receivers. It is a growing market with a lot of potential in the future with many Myanmar people utilising technology and data.