Liberalizing Telecom Sector in Myanmar
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, commonly shortened to Myanmar is one of the largest and poorest countries in the South East Asian region. The country recently emerged out of 60 years of conflict with run-down infrastructure from years of civil unrest. The government has embarked on a long term transition from an authoritarian military system to democratic governance; from a centrally directed economy to market oriented reforms; and from years of strife to peace.
During this transition period, the Government of Myanmar has an ambitious economic, political and governance reform program. The telecommunications sector will be liberalized to attract foreign investment, job creation, and local industry development, and promote information and communication technologies as a social and economic catalyzer. These much needed reforms are crucial for improvements in Myanmar’s telecommunications sector performance. Myanmar’s mobile cellular penetration (8%of population), fixed telephone lines (1.14%), broadband fixed lines (0.014%) and mobile broadband penetration (0.51%) are amongst the lowest in the world.
The Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) specializes in creating enabling environments for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in basic infrastructure sectors, as well as early stage project conceptualization and pre-feasibility project development. This expertise allows PPIAF to work effectively in countries coming out of conflict situation and willing to tackle the challenges associated with increasing institutional capacity and sector reforms needed to attract private sector participation.
Since telecommunications operators (especially mobile telephony) tend to be the first to arrive in post-conflict settings, it is important that government reforms and regulatory approaches facilitate these investments and thus begin to change country risk ratings and investor perceptions.
In 2013 PPIAF provided a technical assistance (TA) grant to the Post and Telecommunications Department (PTD) in charge of regulatory issues. This TA supported the development of an operational sector road map, the design and implementation of a regulatory framework, and helped develop technical and administrative capacity within the PTD to address issues related to sector liberalization. An international best practices report on telecommunications regulations was delivered to the Ministry, providing inputs in the design process of telecommunication regulations applicable to Myanmar’s context. Accordingly, a set of key regulations on licensing, competition, access and interconnection, spectrum and numbering have been drafted and are undergoing public consultations for finalization.
PPIAF’s work has contributed to laying the foundations for a regulatory framework that enables liberalization of the telecommunications market. Regulatory good practices were identified and adapted to Myanmar’s reality, and a preliminary consultation is underway to finalize the regulations. One of the key challenges going forward is to ensure that a level playing field can be established, by meaningfully separating the policy and regulatory roles of government from that of operation. For this to happen, further support is needed for the restructuring of the Government-owned operator, Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT). PPIAF will provide further assistance to MPT to restructure it through corporatization. PPIAF will remain engaged with the Government of Myanmar for the next several years while the telecommunications sector reform is underway.