Ooredoo announces distributors for Burma mobile rollout

Passengers and a rickshaw rider stand in the foreground of a illuminated Billboard advertising Telecom Company Ooredoo, in Yangon, Burma. Pic: AP.

Ooredoo, one of two international telecoms operating in Burma, announced distributors for its low-cost mobile devices on Friday. The Qatari company pledges to provide affordable devices and SIM cards to the country and has already integrated itself into Burma’s growing tech scene ahead of the product roll-out.

The six companies named as distributors in a press release that went out at the end of last week were: Great Ayerwaddy Telecoms Company Limited, MDG Mobile Company Limited, Capital Connect Limited, Kiwi & I Co. Limited, and MDR Golden Myanmar Sea Co. Limited. These companies are “exclusive, territory specific distributors,” according to the release, and “are currently signing up hundreds of dealers within townships across their territories.”

Myint Zaw, Ooredoo’s head of sales encouraged businesses interested in retailing any of Ooredoo’s products and services, to get in contact with appointed distributors within their areas.

“Logistics is an important part of our business,” Myint Zaw said in a statement. “The distributors we have partnered with are leaders in their field and we’re committed to working with them to enable the people of [Burma] easy access to our latest generation mobile network.”

Ooredoo plans to sell SIM cards, Top-Up cards, and handsets throughout the country and has a stated goal of reaching 97 percent of the population within five years. The company’s website states its intention to “build out a nationwide 3G network and deliver an accessible, affordable and life-enhancing services to the people of [Burma].” Telenor has said it intends to reach 90 percent of the population within five years as well.

Telenor, a Norwegian telecom, is also working on bringing low-cost Internet and mobile products and services to Burma. Both companies have sponsored events and initiatives in the tech and information spheres since entering the country. Last week, Telenor hosted a Wikipedia forum at Dagon University, according to Eleven Myanmar. The goal was to address access issues for people in Burma, since Myanmar Wikipedia has different content than the English version and the local font is not always readable. Ooredoo sponsored Burma’s first hackathon in March, and has since sponsored cultural and industry events. The company has also announced partnerships with Microsoft and Samsung for initiatives in Burma.

A recent Forbes article notes that both Ooredoo and Telenor have affirmed that their products and services will be affordable for many in Burma, which is considerably poorer and less developed in many ways than several others in the region. The Forbes article also pointed out that both telecoms have demonstrated success when they entered other emerging markets.

The market is ripe in the developing country and there is a desire for affordable phones and services. There’s plenty of interest in developing products for this market, but infrastructure remains a key challenge in providing access to the people, especially those outside major cities. The International Business Times reported in April that only 30 percent of the population has access to electricity.