Gateway guidelines to boost telecoms

The government has released draft guidelines on international gateway services – which connect the networks of different countries – in a move industry officials say will help boost competition and lower prices in Myanmar’s telecoms market.

After a banner year for mobile communication in Myanmar, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) is tackling regulations for running international gateway services. MCIT deputy minister U Thaung Tin said yesterday that the move will lead to more providers in the market and cheaper connectivity.

International gateways allow electronic communication, whether voice, data or video, to be sent between the domestic network of one country and that of another. Over 20 companies in Myanmar are eligible to operate such gateways, but the lack of official guidelines means very few do.

The new guidelines contain clauses that aim to ensure competition in the market, as well as drive interconnection between providers.

According to MCIT’s recent draft telecommunications master plan, the government aims to connect more than 90 percent of the country through mobile, fixed and satellite technologies. The government also wants to ensure that typical access to broadband internet costs 5pc or less of Myanmar citizens’ income, the plan says.

Expanding broadband connectivity requires cross-border bandwidth and operators – but no proper guidelines exist regulating international gateways, said U Thaung Tin.

“After releasing the international gateway guidelines, many providers will offer cross-border bandwidth and create competition that will bring down bandwidth costs,” he said, adding internet service providers are eager for more bandwidth.

Redlink vice chair and co-founder U Thein Than Toe said progress on the international gateway guidelines was very positive for his company, as it has to rely on existing gateway players – especially state-owned incumbent Myanma Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).

“If there are more and more gateway operators, we have more choice, more links,” he said. “We can have back-up links and also the price could be cheaper than it is now.”

Campana Group CEO U Myo Myint Ohn also lauded the move.

“We view this as another great initiative by the Posts and Telecommunications Department under the Union government,” he said. “Once international gateways are liberalised, we foresee connectivity prices dropping, allowing cheaper internet usage and driving more e-services. The Myanmar public will benefit.”

The rules, which U Thaung Tin said were drafted by the MCIT with help from the World Bank, have a while to go before they become official, however.

They are open to public comment, until January 31. According to the MCIT’s website, an event on the proposed rules was held on January 5 attended by representatives from the Ministry of Defence, the PTD and others.

“We still don’t know how many rounds of consultation we are going to have,” U Thaung Tin said. “But if everybody thinks that it’s perfect, [the rules] can go straight away.”

The deputy minister said the regulations will also be vetted by the attorney general’s office and sent to the cabinet for approval.

Source: Myanmar Times

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