Redlink hits back over spectrum auction concerns

While international mobile operators Telenor and Ooredoo have criticised an upcoming spectrum auction for potentially coming ahead of finalised industry guidelines, a major local player has fired back, denying the sale is rushed and suggesting the companies are averse to competition.

Multinational telcos Telenor and Ooredoo have raised concerns that selling more spectrum before the completion of a roadmap charting its allocation would be hasty.

But Redlink vice chair and co-founder U Thein Than Toe said both operators have gone live in the Myanmar market without the finalisation of certain rules – and that these international firms want to keep challengers down.

“[Telenor and Ooredoo] ran their operations for more than a year already without rules, without a roadmap, without international gateway policies,” he said.

“They want [this 2600-megahertz spectrum auction] postponed or cancelled. They don’t want the new competition.”

However, one executive at an internet service provider suggested more political motivations for the sped-up timeline.

“It is quite rushed for the auction, yes, but considering the change of guard at the top I am not surprised,” they said.

Spectrum is a crucial resource for players in the telecommunications industry, from mobile operators to internet service providers. It is available in bands, like highways, that carry traffic like data and voice.

The government has announced draft plans through documents posted to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s (MCIT) website to auction 140MHz of spectrum to up to seven licencees in what is known as the 2600MHz band.

The auction is slated to occur on March 24, at which time the government’s spectrum roadmap will not be finalised, according to Ooredoo CEO Rene Meza.

While the international telco executive recently compared holding the auction at that time to “putting the cart before the horse”, U Thein Than Toe said the telecoms regulator – the Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) – is proceeding according to plan.

“PTD has already issued operating licences and now it will provide spectrum. Then they want these companies to run as internet service providers,” he said.

“This idea did not immediately pop up.”

While many companies have gained licences to become internet service providers (ISPs), customers have yet to see them storm the sector.

From the start of Myanmar’s reform process, the government has prioritised spreading mobile services – leaving other telecoms players to wait for proper regulatory policies, according to U Thein Than Toe.

However, the administration has planned all along to supplement mobile services with a broadband market, he said.

He said the high-capacity spectrum that will go on offer in March is “for broadband” more than for the multinational organisations, who have said the 1800MHz channel – which could be sold in Q4 of this year – would be a better band to start with.

Meanwhile, the internet service provider executive said both operators and ISPs would find value in possessing spectrum on the 2600 band as it could help provide last-mile connectivity.

While U Thein Than Toe alleged the telcos don’t want new challengers in the market, Mr Meza said Ooredoo welcomes competition.

However, he said the upcoming auction would drastically shake up the market’s competitive landscape.

“The accepted norm internationally is that four mobile operators in a given market is optimal for ensuring sustainable competition for the benefit of all,” he wrote in an email last week. “To now so dramatically deviate from that position is harmful to the investment we have made and to a sustainably competitive market.”

“Part of the [2600MHz] auction plan is to issue seven new licencees on this band, so effectively there would be seven new licensees with frequencies allocated on the [2600MHz band] which would bring the total market to 11 players – something that is clearly not sustainable.”

As to those that may bid in the upcoming auction, a Telenor spokesperson said the company had submitted an expression of interest (EOI) last week.

“At this point, we are open on the decision to participate in the auction,” the spokesperson said.

U Thein Than Toe confirmed yesterday his company had also sent in an EOI. Ooredoo declined to comment on the status of its participation, as official guidelines for the auction had not yet been published.


Source: Myanmar Times

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