According to MyanmarUpdate.com, state-owned incumbent operator Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) intends to reduce the notoriously exorbitant price of its SIM cards from USD240 to USD180 later this month, to coincide with a 3G network overhaul carried out by Chinese telecoms vendors Huawei, ZTE and Alcatel Shanghai Bell. The development was revealed by MPT’s chief engineer, U Htay Win, who noted that around one million SIM cards would be made available at the reduced price.
Last January, as part of the president’s poverty reduction plan, little-known telecoms operator Shwe Pyi Tagon Co announced plans to sell SIM cards for MMK5,000 (USD5.73) – dramatically cheaper than those already available on the market. Lwin Naing Oo, the company’s chairman, told a press conference: ‘We will sell one million 3G SIM cards for only MMK5,000, possibly in the first week of March. We will start with 3G, then we will implement for 4G within one year. Within five years, we plan to produce 30 million 4G SIM cards for 100% communication coverage’. Lwin Naing Oo added that the new 3G network operator will be 40% owned by the Myanmar government, and 30% by his company, with the remaining 30% stake held by unconfirmed participants. As far as TeleGeography was able to ascertain, the plans never came to fruition.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the price of SIM cards in Myanmar has proven prohibitively expensive for would-be end-users in recent years, leading to a meagre population penetration rate of just 1.2% as at 30 September 2012, with just 720,000 subscribers in a country of more than 60 million people. The average annual income per person in Myanmar is believed to stand at around USD1,200.