Myanmar: The next Asian telecommunications greenfield?
Having spent the past half a century under military rule and engaged in civil wars at the same time, Myanmar remains one of the poorest countries in the world and certainly the poorest in Southeast Asia. However, this once self-imposed isolated country is now undergoing a series of political, social and economic reforms that promises boundless opportunities for international trade and investment. Apart from the potential wealth to be generated from its large reserves of natural resources, the telecommunications sector is poised for a boom after decades of poor connectivity. However, there is a need to balance the desire for a speedy catch-up with the need to learn from other nations’ experiences in developing their telecommunications networks. It is also important to bear in mind that long-term returns are not guaranteed even though Myanmar has a large population and low telephony penetration rates.
Most of the potential within the telecommunications industry lies within the regulatory framework and environment, which is still a work in progress. The current environment is risky, with particular threats of civil unrest and corruption. Clarity on the regulation and tender process is crucial and companies are keenly aware of Myanmar’s regulatory ambiguity. In addition, Myanmar’s current telecommunications laws are bewildering, with no formal plans for financing network expansion and building technological infrastructure.
Nevertheless, there remains great hope for Myanmar’s telecommunications sector despite the amount of groundwork that needs to be developed in order to improve the overall market. Deloitte believes that if the government is successful in implementing a stable regulatory framework in addition to executing structural reforms, Myanmar will be able to benefit from international investments and reap the corresponding benefits that will help propel the nation forward.