Wed 2 Apr 2014
Filed under: Business / Trade,Inside Burma,News
On March 8, a quiet revolution happened. The Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor became the first private company in Myanmar’s history to establish an international Internet link from the country.
The new Telenor connection is the first time that government-backed Myanmar Post and Telecommunications monopoly on the Internet has been broken.
When reached for comment, Telenor responded by email saying, “We can confirm that we are leasing capacity out of Myanmar to run performance tests on our network and IT systems.”
Although the company is working on it’s own international internet cables to increase capacity and stabilize the system, for the time being Telenor confirmed that they are leasing connectivity on Myanmar’s only submarine cable SEA-ME-WE 3.
In a blog post last month, Internet Intelligence company Renesys classified Myanmar, along with countries like Syria, Ethiopia, and Yemen, “as being at severe risk of Internet disconnection” because of a paucity of international Internet providers”.
Doug Madory, senior analyst at the company called Telenor’s new but small link “an important milestone in the development of the telecommunications sector in Myanmar and more broadly the opening up of the country.”
Madory went on to explain that Telenor is currently passing the “The smallest [amount] allowed for global routing.” Although inadequate to support board mobile services in the country, Madory said “I would expect to see it grow in size in the coming months as they bring their new infrastructure online”.
Last June, Telenor became one of 4 companies awarded a highly sought after licenses to provide mobile Internet service in the country; Ooredoo, state backed telecom from Qatar, was the other international company awarded a license.
Two local companies also received licenses: Yatarnaporn Teleport, which Reuters reported as being in partnership talks with Thai Telecom True, as well as the incumbent Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (in collaboration with the military back Myanmar Economic Corporation) and a yet to be named international telecommunications company.
Both Ooredoo and Telenor have pledged to bring faster, more reliable service quickly to Myanmar, which currently only has an estimated 11% mobile penetration rate. But the companies have pushed their timetables for operation after numerous government delays: from the more than half year it took to formally receive their licenses to the still undefined regulations in the Telecommunications Law passed last October.
Naomi Gingold is a freelance reporter based in SE Asia. Find her on Twitter @naomigingold