Telenor: Yangon Network Not Complete

Telenor’s network in Yangon is not complete enough, Telenor Group president and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas said at an informal press briefing December 2.

The Norwegian telco’s top executive, who tested out Telenor’s coverage during a visit to Yangon last week, in part pinned “capacity constraints on the existing number of base stations” on traffic generated by crowds of customers.

He also called rolling out base stations the firm’s top priority, followed by providing sites “the necessary energy to fly the capacity”. The company anticipates putting up 8000 mobile towers nationally in the next five years, according to Telenor Myanmar representative Ko Soe Thu Tun.

Telenor deployed its network on about 348 base stations in Yangon on October 26, following the telco’s debut in Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. More than 400 base stations now populate Myanmar’s most populous city, but Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg reaffirmed that approximately 800 would be required in Yangon for “seamless” 2G and 3G coverage.

The company targets deploying 50 to 100 new base stations each month. But getting sites the green light has stalled rapid rollout, according to Mr Baksaas.

“We have our base stations, which we have concentrated in Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, and we will be building from that, both adding more capacity in these three cities as well as extending to other areas of the country at the speed that we can both manage and are pushing for,” Mr Baksaas said. “We are not necessarily the one that wants to go slow.”

“From our perspective, we are ready to roll,” he said. “The approval processes in order to get base stations into the market, that’s the bottleneck.”

Mr Baksaas said getting base stations up and running involves cooperating with local government to obtain approvals and to access LAN (local area network).

Infrastructure issues have put Telenor in a predicament, as demand currently exceeds the telco’s capacity to offer perfect coverage, according to Mr Furberg.

“When you go to the shops, [people] will scream, ‘We want more SIM cards,’ and at the same time we have our customers, like even the Group CEO coming in and saying this network isn’t good enough,” he said. “We’re still selling SIM cards, but we’re trying to manage where we are selling the SIM cards to ensure that we are not congesting the congested areas more than they already are.”

Mr Baksaas acknowledges some customers might regard this practice as “rationing”, but said the situation would be resolved with time.

In the meantime, Telenor SIM cards have been seen on the black market selling for more than double their normal price.

Capacity-building will also come down to fibre-line development, already under way. As of now, Telenor is leasing capacity from Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), Mr Furberg said.

“We are in the process of completing one more line to Thailand which will increase our capacity tremendously and which we believe will at least suffice for a while,” he continued. “But it’s also going to be a lot of needs inside Myanmar to build out fibre to be able to handle the data traffic that we expect in the years to come.”

Telenor has already sold more than 2 million SIM cards (with almost half that figure sold in Yangon), and people purchase close to 1000 more each day, according to Mr Furberg.

“I hope in five years’ time we can say that, ‘Yes, our ambition was to serve as many people as we possibly can’, that penetration really has grown from below 10 million SIM cards today until maybe 70pc, 80pc of the population,” Mr Baksaas said.


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