There are three mobile providers operating in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma):
- [Mytel] by MNTC - operational from 2018
Past and Present Edit
Until just a few years ago, this country was closed to the world by the military junta. The state-owned operator MPT gave out mobile access only to the military and private subscribers who paid more than $1,000 USD bribe for a SIM card. All mobile communication equipment brought by visitors was confiscated at the border until recently as well.
The country has now opened up and these laws are no longer enforced, rocketing Myanmar from stone-age to cyber-age. Internet reliability issues still remind users that they're in one of the last frontiers, but improving in 2016-2017.
The previous situation was so desperate that the new civil government issued two new licences in 2013 to foreign companies to build GSM networks in the country, which meant the state-owned incumbent provider MPT got competition and lowered the prices to a fraction of the past. In 2014 Kuwait/Qatar-based Ooredoo and Norwegian Telenor launched their networks. Both newcomers had only coverage in Yangon (aka Rangoon), the new capital NayPyiTaw, Mandalay and a few areas in between for a start, but are rapidly growing from there.
Myanmar's internet user base has increased from 2 million in 2014 to more than 39 million in mid-2016. The number of SIM cards in circulation has also increased by almost 400% in this period. This figure now represents a mobile penetration of 90% of the country's population.
Networks, Coverage, Speed Edit
Only go to Myanmar if you can live with erratic and sometimes painfully slow internet access. This is true to WiFi as well as to all three mobile operators, especially in rural areas. Both of the newcomers sold millions of SIM cards each in only a few months. SIM cards were in such high demand in 2014 that black-market prices skyrocketed, though now being sold on every street corner with competitive prices.
MPT has again lowered prices but has still unreliable and slow internet access. It gives the best coverage throughout the country on 2G 900 MHz and 3G 2100 MHz and simultaneously on an incompatible CDMA network. Ooredoo only built up a 3G network mostly on 900 MHz with no fall back to 2G. Telenor is said to be the most reliable for data where it has coverage on 2G 900 MHz and especially on 3G 2100 MHz. A fourth license to Vietnam-backed Vietel Group was given out recently, but they haven’t started yet.
4G/LTE has started by all providers in parts of Mandalay, Yangon and the capital Naypyidaw in 2016 using existing 2100 MHz bands. The regulator is going to auction more spectrum on 1800 and 2600 MHz in 2016/7 to be used for 4G/LTE.
In 2017 a 4th licence has been awarded to Myanmar National Tele & Communications (MNTC). This is a joint venture between Vietnamese-army-backed Viettel and 11 local firms. It will operate under the Mytel brand. They promise to bring 2G, 3G and 4G to rural areas at agressive prices starting probably in 2018.
SIM cards are sold everywhere. Only in the official shops of the providers you need to show your passport and visa (stamp), on the street nobody asks for it.
Mobile phone users will have to register their SIM cards starting in April 2017 according to the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications. To register, a customer will be required to provide his name, address, date of birth, nationality and gender, with either their national registration card (NRC), driving licence, passport or student card as proof of identity. The Ministry also said that, starting 31 March 2017, all unregistered SIM cards in Myanmar will be blocked.
As the data stream is unreliable, it can be hard to place VoIP calls, even on WiFi. International IDD calls are charged high at around €/$ 1 per min which is a multiple of the prices in neighbouring Thailand.
All providers need to register SIM cards until March 2017. This is done without verification so far by app or online. All rates are subject to an additional 5% commercial tax starting April 1, 2016. In the prices of Ooredoo and Telenor it's included, with MPT it's not.
The state owned provider MPT (for Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications) has ruined its reputation in the past when it charged exorbitantly high fees for mobile access, voice and data. They had a monopoly under the military regime when they used to give out access only to the elite, privileged foreigners and the military power circle. They have lowered prices significantly. Back in 2013, they charged US$ 200 for a SIM card with data, only two years later US$1.50. This alienated a lot of people who started to shun MPT, even it’s still the only choice in many areas of Myanmar.
Still, it has the best coverage on the countryside. At the beginning of 2016 it reached 90% of population by its 3G network. The company made a remarkable turnaround and got awarded by Ooklas speed test as Myanmar's fastest mobile network of 2016 starting to deploy LTE and regained a market share of 52% in 2017.
MPT has officially launched it's 4G/LTE service on 30 May 2017 in Yagon, NayPyiTaw and Mandalay on 1800 MHz. It's available for prepaid users at these locations with 4G compatible devices and SIM cards. MPT users with older non-compatible SIM cards may swap them for new 4G-ready ones, while retaining their current numbers, at any MPT branded stores in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw for no additional charge.
Their SIM card is sold at many places where you see their logo even if they are not so visible like Ooredoo or Telenor. There is a big outlet in the arrivals hall of Yangon International airport. Since January 2015, they charge 1,500 kyats for the starter pack with 300 kyats credit. Another 300 kyats credit are paid after 30 and 90 days. Since 2016 they also sell nano SIMs in some locations.
To activate your SIM card, you need to put it into your phone, turn on your phone and make a call, or top-up your balance using one of their top-up cards. You will receive an SMS confirming your SIM card activation and informing you about your phone number.
Top-up cards are available in following denominations: 1,000 Ks, 3,000 Ks, 5,000 Ks, 10,000 Ks, 20,000 Ks, 30,000 Ks. In 2016 MPT revised its balance validity scheme: customers who top up their mobile accounts will now have their balance validity automatically increased to one year. The new scheme is designed to enable MPT customers who make small top-ups keep their SIM card active for a longer period of time compared to the previous scheme. Additionally, customers relying on balance transfer from their friends and family to recharge their account will also see their balance validity increased to 90 days every time they receive a transfer.
Data feature packages Edit
For a good data rate, you first have to switch to their new “Swe Thahar” tariff by texting “SWE” to 1332. You will get 50 MB for this free subscription. Default data is 6 kyats per MB. They offer these data packages:
- daily package valid until midnight of the day of subscription:
- 150 MB: 399 Ks, activation: *2001#
- monthly packages for 30 days:
- 1.5 GB: 2,850 Ks, activation: *2002#
- 3 GB: 5,250 Ks, activation: *2003#
- 6 GB: 9,500 Ks, activation: *2004#
- 15 GB: 18,000 Ks, activation: *2005#
- night packages valid 11pm-7am:
- 250 MB for 1 night: 300 Ks, activation: *237*1#
- 1 GB for 7 nights: 1000 Ks, activation: *237*2#
- 4 GB for 30 nights: 3,200 Ks., activation: *237*3#
To all rates 5% taxes must be added. Packages expire after one month or when used up. You can book new packs anytime. Check data balance by texting “BAL” to 1332. Check balance: *124#.
Tourist SIM Edit
For tourists visiting Myanmar they sell a special SIM only at the MPT Shop in Yangon International Airport in both terminals. You pay 10,000 Ks. for the starter and get 1 GB data and 5,000 Ks. credit valid for 10 days. Data over the package is billed at their default rate of 6 Ks. per MB. Compared to their regular SIM cards, this is not a good deal.
More info Edit
- APN: mptnet
- Website in English: http://www.mpt.com.mm/en
Ooredoo was first in the race to revolutionize the mobile phone system of Myanmar. It started its network in August 2014 in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Mandalay. Even they were first, they have fallen behind Telenor to the 3rd position, but are available in other areas like the Mon state: 3G and 4G coverage map
Ooredoo only started up a 3G network on 900 MHz mostly. So you need to have a device working on this frequency in 3G. There is no 2G fallback. This different approach gave them an edge ahead in time. But simply skipping 2G and starting on 3G may prove to be not such a great idea. This is a country where the majority subsists on US$ 100 per month and uses mobile phones for voice mostly.
In 2016 it started 4G/LTE as first provider in the country using 1800 and 2100 MHz in parts of Yangon, Mandalay and the capital NayPyiTaw: 4G coverage list. In 2017 LTE covers almost 5 million people across Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Bagan and Magwe.
You can’t miss their shops and sales outlets. Where you see their logo, you will probably have coverage. Their prepaid starter pack is sold at every street corner, together with their two competitors. Like them, they are sold for 1,500 kyats. Ooredoo gives a 10 MB bonus.
So you need to top-up right away. Top up values from 500 kyats to 50,000 kyats are available.
Data feature packages Edit
Data is activated on 3G/4G by default on Ooredoo and charged at 6 kyats (9pm-6am) and 9 kyats (6am-9pm) per MB. They offer these packages:
|150 MB||24 hours||400 kyats||150MB|
|1.5 GB||7 days||2,500 kyats||1.5GB|
|800 MB||1 month||999 kyats||800MB|
|2 GB||1 month||2,999 kyats||2GB|
|3.5 GB||1 month||4,999 kyats||3.5GB|
|6 GB||1 month||8,999 kyats||6GB|
|14 GB||1 month||19,999 kyats||14GB|
|25 GB||1 month||29,999 kyats||25GB|
|60 GB||1 month||49,999 kyats||60GB|
|130 GB||1 month||99,999 kyats||130GB|
5% tax is already included in prices. For activation type *140# or text code to 4646.
They will send you an SMS to notify you when your pack expires or has been fully used. Your pack won't be automatically renewed. If you do not purchase a new pack when your current pack expires or has been fully used but you continue to access the internet, they will charge you for internet the standard data charges.
You can buy and have simultaneously active up to 3 packs of the same type in the relevant validity period for that type of pack. If you buy an a new pack before the old expires, unused data will roll over.
More info Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in English: http://www.ooredoo.com.mm/
Telenor ended up 2nd in the race: they launched their network in October 2014 in Mandalay and Yangon only. In 2015 it covers 15 provinces: Mandalay, Yangon, Sagaing, Bago, Magway, Ayeyarwaddy, Kayin, Mon, Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Nay Pyi Taw and Tanintharyi making it the biggest 3G network in the country by the end of 2015.
Their coverage are the green and blue areas together: Current coverage map. These are 50% of the populated area of Myanmar and wider than Ooredoo.
They are rapidly building up a network, have already surpassed Ooredoo in coverage and want to cover 80% of Myanmar by the end of the decade. They are so successful right now that their network is already congested in downtown Yangon and Mandalay, but it is still said to be the most reliable choice for data in these areas. Unlike Ooredoo Telenor builds a “classical” network with 2G and 3G.
4G/LTE has started in the cities of Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw, Myawady and Muse and is being commercially launched in 2016 on the rather unusual frequency band of 2100 MHz. In 2017 it has spread to 17 cities so far.
Their SIM cards are available literally on every street corner where they have coverage (and sometimes even beyond). Just look for their sign. At the international airport of Yangon, there is a sales outlet right at the luggage claim area squeezed in between the money changers before passing customs. They are sold everywhere for 1,500 kyats starter price without credit. So you need to top-up soon. Mini and micro SIMs are available everywhere, nano SIMs are rare and best found in their own stores and at the airport stall.
Reload vouchers are sold for 1000, 3000, 5000 and 10000 kyats. For the first reload only, they give a bonus of 30 MB for 3000 ks, 60 MB for 5000 ks and 120 MB for 10000 ks.
To activate, you must place a first call, which doesn’t need to be answered. By default you are only on 2G up to EDGE speed for data. To activate 3G data, text “SMART” to 500.
Data feature packages Edit
Data is 8 kyats per MB by default. These monthly data packages are offered for 2G and 3G (up to 2 Mbit/s):
|500 MB||799 kyats||*979*2*2*1#||30 days with carry over|
|2 GB||2,999 kyats||*979*2*2*2#||30 days with carry over|
|5 GB||6,999 kyats||*979*2*2*3#||30 days with carry over|
|9 GB||11999 kyats||*979*2*2*4#||30 days with carry over|
|14GB||17,999 kyats||*979*2*2*5#||30 days with carry over|
5% taxes are already included. Check balance by *124# and data balance by *124*1#. Packages can be booked multiple times.
To combat congestion, Telenor introduced special night packages called Super Zee Kwat at the end of 2015. They reduce the cost for data to 1 kyat per MB and for an intranet call to 1 kyat per min:
- for 7 days: 800 kyats (provides 761 kyats sub-account balance), activation: *803#
- for 30 days: 2500 kyats (provides 2380 kyats sub-account balance), activation: *802#
Night time is defined 11pm to 7am. Packages are once-off, not renewing. Data is on 3G too. Outside and during daytime standard rates are charged.
Tourist SIM Edit
In 2015 they started to sell a Tourist SIM. In 2016 it was upgraded: For a sales price of 15,000 kyats, visitors get 5 GB data and 50 local mins to all nets for 14 days.
It's available in only a few tourist oriented locations: it was launched in Yangon International Airport in November 2016 and is now available at their counters in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw airports too.
More info Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in English: http://www.telenor.com.mm