Myanmar mobile, Internet charges may drop in two years

According to the country's deputy minister for Communications and IT, fees are set to dip and Internet access may even be free of charge initially, especially for rural areas.

Mobile phone bills may drop and and initial fees for Internet access could be offered free of charge in Myanmar within two years, according to Thaung Tin, deputy minister for Communications and Information Technology (IT).

Myanmar's mobile and Internet charges could drop in two years.

"Billing charges are expensive if we compare them to Myanmar's GDP which is under US$1,000," said the deputy minister, in a report on Monday by Eleven Media.

It's estimated up to 7 percent of the population now use mobile phones, while Internet penetration is over 1 percent. This is largely due to high call costs and tight regulations.

Thaung Tin added this was inline with Myanmar's target to reach a mobile phone density of 50 percent in two and a half years' time. "We will give licenses to operators who can provide the best and most reliable services," he added in the report.

Internet services will also be made as cheap as possible or even free of charge especially for rural areas, the deputy minister said.

He pointed out "Internet freedom" meant enabling every person to access the Internet freely and cheaply. "When we discussed with Microsoft representatives, we told them that we will use the Microsoft products with a license version if they give us the products with the reasonable price. They asked how much price is reasonable for us and I said 'free of charge is reasonable'," said the deputy minister, in the report.

The country is currently holding a tender for two additional telco licenses for foreign operators, where 11 corsortia are left in the race. Vodafone and China Mobile withdrew their joint bid over the weekend, citing the opportunity did not meet their strict internal investment criteria.