Mobile network ecosystem

Myanmar has undergone a rapid rollout of mobile networks from the previous situation of a state-backed monopoly. Prior to the reforms enacted by the Thein Sein administration from 2011, access to mobile phones was limited to the elite few who could afford to spend US$2500 on a SIM card — only North Korea had fewer connected citizens, as recently as eight years ago.

In 2012, a tender was announced in state media. Some 91 companies and consortiums entered expressions of interest. As a result, two foreign companies were invited to provide services, and the state-backed monopoly of Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) was reformed.

It was actually mid-2013, when the Qatari telephone company Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor were announced as the winners of the tender, selected from a whittled-down shortlist of 11 candidates.

Since then, coverage has expanded rapidly and 4G is now available in much of the country. While cable and optic fiber Internet connections are often prohibitively expensive, many homes and businesses rely on 4G for a faster and cost-effective solution.

A new mobile operator, MyTel, launched in 2018, bringing the total number of providers to four.