Picking up the Pace
Sammatha Cheng
September , 2017

Before 2010, the Telecommunication sector has been the greatest drawback of Myanmar. Myanmar’s mobile revolution began at the end of 2013 when Government invited foreign telecoms for bids for the right to operate mobile networks. 91 international companies contested and two international telecommunication companies (Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor) were finally awarded for Telecom Licenses. Prior to that, only the state-owned telecom operator, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) operated as a monopoly.

Since then, Myanmar’s mobile market has experienced very rapid growth from 2013 to 2017. Back then, owning a cell phone was a luxury for the wealthy in Myanmar but now we can buy a SIM card easily in Myanmar at $1.50. In the past, a SIM card in Myanmar cost $ 1,500 and mobile phones were used by less than 5 percent of the population. Nowadays, over 90 percent of the country’s population has a cell phone and over 80 percent of those users have smartphones. Myanmar now has at least 33 million active mobile subscriptions in a country with an official population of 51 million.

The impact of these factors has increased the percentage of Internet users and mobile social users drastically since January 2016 to this year as noted by ‘WeAreSocial’ below. According to internetworldstats.com, Myanmar internet usage has been booming. In 2015, internet penetration percentage was 12.6% but in 2016 December, internet penetration percentage was 19.3%. For mobile phone penetration, Myanmar has a rate of 68% in December 2016 up from less than 10% in 2012. Other businesses relating to internet are also growing up. With the widespread use of the internet, people got to experience modern technologies and online services.

With an official population of 51 million people and rapidly increasing internet adoption, Myanmar is seen by many tech firms as a market with much growth potential. Grab, Singapore based ride hailing service, entered the country’s capital Yangon in March. After two month, Uber enters in to country as the growth in Myanmar’s mobile services market is too good to ignore. Prior that, two local companies; Oway Ride, Myanmar’s first mobile phone taxi app company, and Hellocabs have been operating since 2016. Another trend involves payments. Even now, Myanmar is a cash-based society but compare with past, there are lots of improvements.

In 2015, 2C2P (Cash and Card Payment Processor) and Myanmar Payment Union (MPU) implemented Myanmar’s first electronic commerce payments platform. At that time, there were 900,000 MPU cards. As a payment network, MPU is comparable to that of VISA, MasterCard and JCB. Now, here comes “Mobile Money”. In Myanmar, only 20% of the population has a bank account. Thus, unbanked people often just carry stacks of cash when returning home. Young migrant workers throughout the country use mobile money to make remittances to families back home. Wave Money, majority owned-by telecom operator Telenor and Yoma Bank, is available to Telenor customers, who represent approximately 38 % of mobile users in the country. Their competitor telecoms have applied for licenses to offer mobile money service and launch the service as soon as it obtains approval from the central bank.

Qatar’s Ooredoo decided to pull the trigger first, teaming up with Myanmar’s Co-operative Bank in a business called M-Pitesan. Pitesan means money in Myanmar. The company will launch the service as soon as it obtains approval.

Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications, which partners with Japan’s KDDI and Sumitomo Corp is in talks with major local banks to enter the market. One MPT representative said the company expects to launch its service later this year.

Popularity of online shopping has also increased dramatically. Despite the existence of a couple of e-commerce companies in Myanmar, Facebook online shopping groups and pages that sell products online are dominating the online platforms.

According to Summit Jasoria, Managing Director of Shop.com.mm, said more than half a million people visit Shop.com.mm, one of the leading e-commerce platforms, for online shopping on a monthly basis.

aging Director of Shop.com.mm, said more than half a million people visit Shop.com.mm, one of the leading e-commerce platforms, for online shopping on a monthly basis.

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