I was recently privileged to speak at a recent telecoms conference in Naypyitaw co-hosted by the Myanmar Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Over two days I heard from the speakers including the minister, deputy minister, the regulator designate, and representatives from both international and local market participants.
Although the whole event was fascinating, one significant new development for international investors was the revelation that in addition to the two integrated national mobile licences to be granted to Ooredoo and Telenor, and the two integrated national mobile licences to be granted to local operators, other telecoms licences will also be available in the Myanmar telecoms market.
The telecoms law permits the Ministry to make implementing regulations. I understand from the conference that the Ministry has drafted licensing regulations, which will be ready to be issued for public consultation shortly after the law has been signed. Once it has received and considered responses to the consultation, the licensing regulation will be finalized and adopted.
New licensing regulations to specify available licences, processes
The new licensing regulation will both specify the type of licences to be made available as well as the licence application process. Potential market entrants may apply for licences using the process specified in the finalized licensing regulations.
I understand that additional licences for national mobile services will not be available in the near future, but licences will be available for a number of defined activities including internet service provision and the operation of telecoms towers.
Following a remarkable transparent and open process, the government of Myanmar announced in June that it would award two integrated national mobile licences to Ooredoo and Telenor. However, while the new telecoms law has been agreed by both houses of Parliament, until the law is signed into law by the President, these licences cannot be formally issued and regulations implementing the law in detail cannot be adopted.
So the next step in the process is for the Myanmar Telecoms Law to be signed by the President. The international licences will then be awarded almost immediately, with their terms materially already finalized as part of the bidding process. The timeline for the two local national licences is more unclear, but this should follow in the short to medium term, probably on a similar timeframe to the additional licences highlighted above.
In conclusion, with Myanmar's foreign direct investment regime more attractive--at least on paper--than others in the region, my expectation is that we will see further additional investment and market entry by telecoms companies into the Asian economy.