Myanmar awards freedom through cellphone licenses

In a country where cellphone access has been strictly controlled, the decision marks a milestone in opening up Myanmar.

Myanmar has announced the results of a landmark telecommunications auction, permitting investment into the country's communication infrastructure and lifting traditional restrictions on cellphone ownership.

Telenor Mobile Communications of Norway and Ooredoo of Qatar have won 15-year concessions for the creation of mobile phone networks. Under military rule, mobile phones were kept in short supply -- with only three percent of the population owning such a gadget in 2011. Laos, despite similar poverty levels, has a mobile penetration rate of 87 percent.

The landmark auction paves the way for additional freedom and access to information for the country's 55 million people.

Three years ago, a mobile SIM card cost upwards of $2,500 which meant mobile devices were luxuries owned by the rich. Now recovering from military rule, mobile contracts will allow for innovation in the banking and payment industry, which is currently reliant on cash transactions. This will be key for Myanmar's economic prospects in addition to the added bonus of improved communications infrastructure.

One crucial element remains: only 13 percent of Myanmar's population has consistent access to electricity. This in itself will make cellular transmission towers difficult to place. However, because Myanmar is one of the world's last remaining undeveloped mobile markets, the business prospects remain promising.

Recently, Myanmar's Ministry for Hotels and Tourism unveiled a "master plan" to entice more tourists across the border. The plan includes strengthening tourism-related training and education, expanding international air arrivals rates, building better transport links and streamlining tourist-based business licensing.

Read More: New York Times

Image credit: Flickr


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