The state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) company recently announced that it will soon be ready to roll 4G internet out across Myanmar. By providing faster internet, MPT could boost financial inclusion in the country, allowing Myanmar to rack up greater economic expansion.
The global digital revolution has provided a wealth of new opportunities for businesses great and small. It has supplied them with the technologies required to streamline their operations, giving them the ability to cut costs and maximise profits, and to provide more convenient, as well as higher quality, goods and services in sectors ranging from finance to retail, thus expanding their revenue streams.
As a frontier market, the rise of digitisation could prove especially advantageous for Myanmar. The South-East Asian country is becomingly increasingly connected, with the MPT’s efforts to broaden coverage having supplied internet access to 98% of the nation’s population. However, the nation must transition from 3G to 4G internet – which is up to ten times faster, to ensure that consumers can benefit from rising connectivity, and power the expansion of Myanmar’s digital economy in future.
If Myanmar’s citizens have access to faster internet, they can utilise key digital services, such as mobile payment apps, more conveniently, boosting economic activity. 4G is only available in some townships in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, but Toshitake Amamiya – the CEO of MPT’s collaborative partnership with KDDI, a Japanese mobile operator, recently announced that this will change imminently.
Commenting, he was quoted by Eleven Myanmar, a news portal, saying: “We have thousands of towers, the number of which is increasing almost daily. We use the 900MHz spectrum that can cover a greater area with fewer towers needed. Combined with strategic placement, we are able to reach over 98% population coverage, and have a robust network that delivers quality and capacity over 3G and soon 4G.” He added that the firms are aiming “to deliver the best services to [all] of Myanmar.”
Drive towards progress
Toshitake further noted that MTP and KDDI have circulated 25 million Sims in Myanmar, boosting mobile internet coverage, and are now looking to heighten data consumption in the country. Expanding, he said: “In common with the whole of Myanmar, data is a very important service for our customers. We have a number of attractive data packs on offer, and expect that over the next three years that data consumption will only increase along with demand for more capacity.”
MTP and KDDI have received investment and technological support from their Japanese partner, KSGM, in their bid to improve connectivity and services in Myanmar. Going forward, he added that KSGM will supply US$2 billion in investment over the next decade, to increase these efforts. But, he noted, they will face challenges in developing these plans, “however, we address these on a case by case basis and always strive to get the best outcome for our customers,” and grow the economy.
MPT has gained a reputation for supplying exemplary services. Since it began partnering with Japanese firms, MPT has implemented company-wide digital innovations, and it formed a collaboration with Microsoft in 2015 to modernise its ICT environment to facilitate access to Office 365 for its employees, so they can share knowledge easily and provide better customer service. It also supplies download speeds of 7.4Mbps, outpacing competitors, and is easily Myanmar’s speediest mobile network.
MPT also strives to supply fixed line services for corporate customers. It has made real progress here too, by developing fixed line mobile bundled services, rolling out secured data networks with mobile remote access and expanding into high speed internet, to help Myanmar’s business embrace the digital economy. MPT and KDDI are now looking to develop fixed mobile convergence services and make mobile money services available for businesses and consumers later on in 2017.
One key benefit that MPT and KDDI’s plan to provide 4G internet across Myanmar, will be that it could boost financial inclusion in the country. It is extremely important that citizens can access financial services, for example, that they can manage their money and take out loans, as these activities fuel consumer spending, which is a major driver of economic progress. As Htet Tayza recently noted, financial inclusion is low in Myanmar, where 77% of citizens lack access to a bank account.
However, a burgeoning financial technology sector is fast-emerging in Myanmar, and this could boost financial inclusion rates. Various mobile payment apps, such as Red Dot Myanmar for example, are being created which makes it easier for people in their country to manage their money without a bank account. If MPT and KDDI’s efforts to facilitate nationwide 4G coverage prove successful, people nationwide will be able to utilise these apps more easily, so they can access financial services more conveniently, spurring the type of activity which could power economic progress going forward.