Lack of rural infrastructure slows Myanmar's mobile growth

Tom Mowat/Analysys Mason
19 Jun 2013

Myanmar’s mobile market is a fascinating opportunity for mobile operators, but it seems unlikely that the regulator’s ambitious targets will be met.

Mobile penetration among adults in urban areas in Myanmar is around 50%, according to an Analysys Mason survey. To many in the industry who have spent the last few years looking at numbers between 3% and 10%, this figure would appear ridiculous, but further analysis highlights both the phenomenal opportunity and the challenge awaiting operators in the newly liberalizing market.

Placing this figure in context provides some interesting insight:

  • Roughly 65% of population of the country live in a rural area so were not surveyed. Further to this, we surveyed only those between 18 and 65 years old, ruling out an additional 13%. This implies a country-wide penetration of 11%.
  • Anecdotal evidence reporting between 1,200 and 1,600 base stations in Myanmar support the understanding that there is little to no rural coverage at present.
  • More than half of all subscribers had been using a phone for less than 12 months, indicating enormous year-on-year growth.

The capacity for growth in the Myanmar market has been widely reported, with its underserved large population and the fact that comparable markets, including Cambodia and Laos, had reached more than 65% and 41% penetration respectively just five years after their respective market liberalizations.

Analysys Mason has, based on existing data, and heavily supplemented by the findings in our report, produced forecasts for Myanmar for the next five years. We believe strongly in the potential of the market and expect it to outperform many of its nearest neighbors over a comparable timeframe. However, it seems unlikely that 50% penetration can be achieved as per the governments stated targets due to the lack of infrastructure outside the cities.

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