State-owned Burmese telecom lowers prices in face of outside competition

Ooredoo launch

Ooredoo Myanmar launched services in Burma on Aug. 15. Photo courtesy Ooredoo Myanmar

A state-owned telecom in Burma will start a price war with Ooredoo, the Qatari company that launched services in Burma earlier this month, Eleven Myanmar reported.

Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) will reduce its per-minute call rates to compete with low-cost offerings from Ooredoo and Telenor. The latter will roll out services toward the end of September. The state telecom currently charges 50 kyat per minute but plans to lower costs to 20 kyat per minute or less, according to Eleven Myanmar. They also reported that MPT is eyeing a price drop for SMS services and may at some point switch Internet plans from being usage based to bulk packages.

The launch of services by Telenor and Ooredoo marks the culmination of a long licensing process that brought the international companies in to help upgrade mobile and Internet services in Burma. Both companies promised to bring quality call services and fast, reliable Internet access to the country, where it can take days to download files even in major cities like Yangon. Burma is behind other Southeast Asian countries economically, and the international telecoms have made it part of their commitments in Burma to provide access even in impoverished communities. The arrival of the foreign companies is said to be spurring improvement initiatives at MPT.

An MPT official acknowledged the need for improvement. Democratic Voice of Burma quoted Kyaw Soe, principal of the MPT’s Telecommunications and Postal Training Centre, as saying: “At the moment, MPT dominates most of the market, but we do foresee that we will begin to lose market shares in the long term. For this, we are trying to make our services more convenient and reliable for our customers.” Users complain about MPT’s inadequate and unreliable services, DVB said.

MPT recently announced a $2 billion plan to upgrade its capabilities and services, the Financial Times reported.