The government of Myanmar is considering opening up its telecoms market to foreign investment for the first time with the award of four new operating licences. Khin Maung Thet, director-general of Myanmar’s Post & Telecommunications Department, a division within the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs (MCPT), has told the Wall Street Journal that the proposals have been passed to the country’s attorney general for approval, after which they must pass through the cabinet and parliament before becoming law. Telecoms markets are currently under state control.
A country with a population of around 60 million, Myanmar is ripe for investment; according to figures from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there were just over 600,000 fixed telephone lines in service in the country at the end of 2010 and approximately the same number of mobile phones, while broadband internet subscriptions numbered just 16,400 at the same date. The planned relaxation of telecoms laws has also been accompanied by the introduction of greater political freedom which has, in turn, prompted Western governments to consider lifting a number of economic sanctions which have been imposed on the country. There are also plans to revise the national currency, the kyat, to promote foreign trade.