With the right regulatory settings the forthcoming
liberalisation of the telecommunications regime in Myanmar has the
potential to create wealth for the entire nation and unite friends
TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN MYANMAR
Myanmar is a country of approximately 60 million people, which
is embarking on some of the most momentous political and social
reforms of any country in the world. It is an ancient and historic
country with a well educated, often English speaking, people, and
considerable mineral and oil reserves.
It is also a country with strong linkages to Australia,
including via the recently inaugurated Myanmar Business Taskforce
sponsored by Asialink. However Myanmar's telecommunications
networks are obsolete and adequately serve only a tiny proportion
of its population. For example, internet penetration is less than
5%. Bringing Myanmar's telecommunications regime into the 21st
century provides an important challenge for the government of
ENDURING BENEFITS ARE NEEDED
It is crucial that the reforms to Myanmar's
telecommunications regime bring enduring and sustainable benefits
to the people of Myanmar, wherever they reside or carry on
business. That can only occur if the telecommunications laws and
regulations strike the right balance between encouraging investment
in new infrastructure, promoting vigorous but sustainable
competition and ensuring that people in the more remote regions of
the country still enjoy the benefits of basic telecommunications
Earlier this year, the government of Myanmar invited tenders
from foreign telecommunications companies to joint venture with
three newly formed telecommunications entities in Myanmar.
Unfortunately this opportunity was not transmitted to the
Australian market and no Australian company participated. This is a
missed opportunity for both Australia and Myanmar.
RELEVANCE OF THE AUSTRALIAN EXAMPLE
There are three reasons why the Australian experience is of
relevance to Myanmar in this crucial transition to a new
telecommunications regime: geography, infrastructure and
Like Australia, Myanmar's population is spread out over a
vast land with many people living in remote and rural areas. It is
these people, in particular, who have missed out on the benefits of
telecommunications until now. Until recently, Australia faced a
similar set of challenges.
Australia is in the midst of one of the most ambitious network
rollouts in the world, a fibre to the home broadband network being
rolled out by NBN Co to more than 90% of premises in Australia. For
that reason Australia is well aware of the many choices that
surround the rollout of 21st century telecommunications
infrastructure. For example, the pros and cons of fibre, copper,
wireless and satellite in CBD, metropolitan and rural areas are
issues that have been hotly debated in Australia over recent
It is important for Myanmar to ensure that the choice and blend
of network infrastructure is one that best suits its social and
economic needs and constraints. That choice should not be left to
equipment vendors who may have a vested interest in providing
particular types of infrastructures. Rather it should be a decision
of government, based on the best-available independent
Australia is seen as having one of the most sophisticated and
effective telecommunications regulatory regimes in the Asia Pacific
region. Its telecommunications laws and regulatory bodies have
served as models for countries and regions such as Hong Kong,
Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Like
Singapore, it is also currently confronting the issues around the
structural separation of the incumbent operator's network.
Structural separation is, in principle, a good thing for
competition and for consumers but there may be situations where the
efficiencies of vertical integration, when coupled with adequate
regulatory safeguards, outweigh the cost of separation.
Myanmar is at the dawn of a new era. A robust and competitive
telecommunications regime has a huge role to play in bringing
prosperity to the entire nation. However the regulatory settings
must be correct or some of the benefits of liberalisation will be
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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