September 14, 2012
Disconnected for decades, Burma poised for telecoms boom
BlackBerrys and iPhones aren't much use in Burma, where its only network is frequently jammed, data services are scarce, prices extortionate, lines crackly and most phones don't roam. For decades, its telecoms industry has been a shambles. The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
It's no surprise this country of 60 million people has the world's second-lowest mobile phone penetration after North Korea; SIM cards are made prohibitively pricey to prevent its tiny network from becoming overloaded, while emailing and web-surfing on phones is so rare it's almost a bourgeois concept.
Even getting hooked up to the network is cumbersome. Visitors must rent SIM cards at the airport on arrival while many Burmese can only afford one-time SIMs with a number that expires after a few days when its $US20 of credit runs out.
But as Burma races ahead with economic reforms, the telecoms sector, riven with graft and mismanagement and lagging behind even Asia's poorest countries, is on the verge of a major shake-up as part of a "reform plan" to liberalise one of the world's last remaining greenfield telcos markets.
Details of the plan are scant, but Burma appears to have finally got its act together and insiders say it could announce its plans this week.
Read full article. Image left: A public call office phone shop on the side of the street in Rangoon (Reuters).
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