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Myanmar

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Basics Edit

There are three mobile providers operating in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma):

  • MPT
  • Ooredoo
  • Telenor
  • [Mytel] by MNTC - operational from 2018

Past and Presence Edit

Until a few years ago this country was closed to the world by the military junta. The state-owned operator MPT gave out access only to the military and to private subscribers when they paid more than 1,000 US$ ransom for a SIM card. All mobile equipment of visitors was confiscated at the border until not long ago.

The country has now opened up and these laws are not enforced anymore. Myanmar catapults from stone to cyber age. But in the meantime it still remains one of the last frontiers: The access situation to the internet is still unreliable, but improving in 2016.

The 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. So 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 and Mandalay and well as some areas in between for a start, but are rapidly growing. 

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 the period. This figure represents a mobile penetration of 90% now 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 on the countryside. Both of the newcomers sold millions of SIM cards each in only a few months. First, they were so high in demand in 2014 that black-market prices skyrocketed. But now you get them on every street corner where you have coverage for the regular price.

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 builds 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 Vienamese 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.

Regulations Edit

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 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.

MPT Edit

Mpt

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 shun MPT, even it’s still the only choice in many areas of Myanmar where the newcomers haven’t reached yet, but are impatiently waited for. Still, it has the best coverage on the countryside. At the beginning of 2016 it reached 90% of population by its 3G network.

In spite of their last price reduction in 2015, their prices are still slightly higher than the newcomers. And again, even having coverage, internet speed can be very unreliable everywhere with MPT. So do it like the locals and use it only when you have no other choice which is outside the Yangon-Mandalay area.

4G/LTE Edit

MPT has soft launched its LTE/4G service at a number of locations on 2100 MHz. The company will roll out full 4G services when the 1800 MHz spectrum licence is released by the government in early 2017.

MPT users can access 4G service at selected locations in Yangon as well as in Naypyitaw 4G service at these locations is available for prepaid users 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.

Availability Edit

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 7.5 kyats per MB.

They offer these data packages:

  • daily package for 24 hours:
    • 120 MB: 400 Ks, activation: text '120MB' to 1332
  • monthly packages for 30 days:
    • 800 MB: 2,800 Ks, activation: text “400MB” to 1332
    • 2 GB: 6,500 Ks, activation: text “1GB” to 1332
    • 4 GB: 12,000 Ks, activation: text: "2GB" to 1332
    • 10 GB: 25,000 kyats, activation: text "5GB" to 1332

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#

More info Edit

  • APN: mptnet

Ooredoo Edit

Ooredoo-logo

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 May 2016 it started 4G/LTE as first provider in the country using their existing technology-neutral frequency 2100 MHz in parts of Yangon, Mandalay and the capital NayPyiTaw: 4G coverage list.

Availability Edit

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 20,000 kyats are available.

Data feature packages Edit

Data is activated on 3G/4G by default on Ooredoo and charged at 6 kyats (7pm-7am) and 8 kyats (7am-7pm) per MB. They offer these packages, which are not so much discounted after all:

Volume Time Price Activation
70 MB 24 hours 399 kyats *5001#
550 MB 1 month 3,000 kyats *5002#
1.35 GB 1 month 6,850 kyats *5003#
2.5 GB 1 month 12,500 kyats *5004#
5.5 GB 1 month 27,000 kyats *5005#

5% tax is already included in prices. They will send you an SMS to notify you when your pack expires or has been fully used. Your pack will not 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, except that for Daily Internet Packs the relevant period for this purpose will be 48 hours.

More info Edit

Telenor Edit

Telenor

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. 

Availability Edit

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 5 kyats per MB on 2G and 6 kyats per MB on 3G by default. Their data packages actually don’t give high discounts after all. So you may think of switching to one later.

  • on 2G (up to 500 kbit/s, but often no data at all, so not recommended):
    • 500 MB: 2,100 kyats, activation: *4005#
  • on 3G (up to 2 Mbit/s):
    • 1 GB: 5,990 kyats, activation: *4011#
    • 2 GB: 9,990 kyats, activation: *4012#
    • 5 GB: 18,990 kyats, activation: *4013#

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.

They have a Free Facebook and Viber plan called Sate Kyite.

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.

Further info Edit

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