Telenor eyes Myanmar wireless surge

Telenor, the Nordic region’s largest phone company and one of two operators selected to build Myanmar’s telecommunications network, expects the license to be issued formally by the end of the year, Mr Baksaas said. Services will start eight to nine months after that, he said in an interview in Singapore on Sept 28, Bangkok Post reported.

“Penetration figures will grow from presently below 10% to a very visible figure in a very short time,” Mr Baksaas said.

“We shouldn’t be far away from 50% penetration already three years down the line.”

Myanmar selected Telenor and Ooredoo QSC of Qatar in June, opening up one of the world’s last remaining untapped markets. The expansion in Myanmar will boost Telenor’s sales by 7% to 8% in 2020, according to an August estimate by Swedbank AB. Mr Baksaas declined to give financial targets for the Myanmar investment.

Telenor and Ooredoo beat nine other bidders including Singapore Telecommunications, billionaire George Soros and Bharti Airtel in the final stage. The licenses allow the carriers to run a nationwide wireless network serving Myanmar’s about 59 million people for 15 years. The license term will start when the license is formally issued, said Mr Baksaas, who joined Telenor in 1989 and has been its CEO for 11 years.

Myanmar, which is a cash society, will benefit from the ability to use mobile phones for financial transactions such as money transfers when they become available, said Mr Baksaas, who was in Singapore between visiting Myanmar and Thailand, where the company controls Total Access Communications Plc.

“This is a population which does not have access to financial services the way we know them,” he said. “The digitalisation of cash handling has happened through banks in general but the mobile phone takes it to the next layer.”

Mr Baksaas, 58, said the network in Myanmar will rely more on solar power than any of its other grids, both out of necessity and to achieve energy savings.

“This is very important because energy is scarce,” he said. “We need energy on every base station and there is no grid in the countryside, which means that we have to establish and build energy capacities ourselves.”


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