As expected, building towers in Myanmar is proving a challenge for Ooredoo, which on Tuesday shed more light on the progress it has made towards its Q3 launch.
Speaking at CommunicAsia, Carson Wolfer, head of business development, partnerships and CSR at Ooredoo Myanmar, said it is not just his company that has to overcome the limitations of the country's patchwork infrastructure; the government's telco ministry has to as well.
"Two years ago they received a dozen or so requests a year from the state-run operator to build new towers. Now it's a couple of hundred every month," he explained, which is a lot of paperwork in a country like Myanmar.
The lack of roads, electricity and fibre is well-documented, but even the mundane aspects of setting up a company, such as setting up bank accounts and trying to pay employees are more difficult in Myanmar, Wolfer said.
"It is still early days for the government," he said.
Ooredoo plans to launch its HSPA+ network in the cities of Mandalay, Naypyitaw and Yangon in the third quarter. The terms of its licence dictate that its network must cover 97% of the population within five years. This year alone, the company is ploughing $1 billion of direct capex, opex and licence fees into Myanmar.
"The demand in metro areas is well established," said Wolfer. However, just 2 kilometres outside Ooredoo's three launch cities, "no one has handsets", he said.
In addition, literacy rates are extremely low among Myanmar's rural population, so educating people about the benefits of the Internet and mobile connectivity when those people have not encountered it before and cannot read is also particularly challenging.
"At the start we will use a lot of pictures and movies," Wolfer said.
"Myanmar has an interesting past," he continued. "There are still a lot of logistical issues."