Ooredoo launches 3G services in Myanmar

Ooredoo launches 3G services in Myanmar

Dylan Bushell-Embling

Ooredoo Myanmar has officially launched mobile services, after switching on its UMTS900 3G network earlier this month. The launch has drawn crowds of eager customers, but also some criticism over Ooredoo's data rates.

The operator launched services on Friday in Myanmar's three major cities, as well as 68 surrounding cities and towns.

At launch, the network covers 7.8 million people, and Ooredoo aims to increase this to 25 million by the end of the year.

Oordoo switched on its network on August 3. The company had been offering voice and mobile data services for free in Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon as a promotion up until the commercial launch.

Ooredoo is selling top-up vouchers at 30,000 outlets and 6,500 dealers are selling the operator's SIMs, the company said.

Friday's launch attracted round-the-block queues and some dealers ran out of their allocation of SIM cards – expected to last a month – in two days, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The large number of new customers is putting a strain on the brand new mobile network, with the operator forced to build new base stations and towers daily to meet demand, the report states. Ooredoo is cautioning that coverage is likely to remain spotty for at least the next six months.

But despite the pent-up demand, Ooredoo's pricing for data packages have attracted some criticism from users and analysts, according to Eleven Myanmar.

Ooredoo is offering a daily rate of 500 kyat ($0.50) for 30MB of data usage, or 12,000 kyat for a monthly allocation of 1GB. Some heavy internet users have complained that this rate is too high, and is not price-competitive with state-owned MPT's ADSL packages.

Voice rates by contrast are superior at the equivalent of around 40 cents per minute, compared to 60 cents for MPT.

Telenor Myanmar, the second of the mobile operators to win a nationwide telecom license during last-year's tender, plans to launch its own 3G services in September. The company also intends to debut first in the three major cities.