New Delhi: A consortium led by India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd on Monday submitted its final bid for a telecom licence in Myanmar, one of the last untapped telecom markets in the world.
“Now there are 11 bidders left vying for the licences,” a Bharti Airtel spokesperson said.
Myanmar has one telecom services provider run by the country’s ministry of post and telegraph that is also looking after the tender.
The country’s new government is looking at giving out two telecom permits with a validity of 20 years each, much like India. There is also a possibility of another two licences being given in a second auction.
Myanmar is considered one of the last few new telecom markets with less than 10% of the population with a phone subscription. The government wants to increase this proportion to between 75% and 80% by 2015-16.
“Its 60 million subscribers are waiting to be added with almost no competition. They (Bharti-led group) already have a huge cost advantage and they understand the region well given the presence in neighbouring countries. They may be at a disadvantage since some of the bidders have local partners with significant clout,” a Mumbai-based analyst working with a multinational brokerage firm said, requesting anonymity.
In April, Myanmar announced a shortlist of 12 qualified bidding consortiums, including those led by Malaysia’s Axiata Group, Jamaica-based Digicel Group, France Telecom, KDDI Corp., Millicom International Cellular SA, MTN, Qatar Telecom, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, Telenor, Viettel Group, Bharti Airtel and a Vodafone-China Mobile combine. Of these, the Vodafone consortium has not placed a bid as all shortlisted groups were supposed to by Monday.
The bidders are mainly being evaluated based on their ability to reach government-set targets rather than financial bids, making some analysts dub the bidding a beauty contest. The winning consortia will have nine months to start their services once they get a permit.
The licensing agreement requires voice coverage for 25% of the country and data services for 10% within a year. The spectrum will consist of two blocks of 5 megahertz (MHz) each in the 900MHz band and two 10MHz blocks in 2100MHz band (3G).
Bharti Airtel has a presence in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and 17 countries in Africa. The telco has not disclosed the names of its partners in the consortium it has put together for Myanmar. It has around 270 million subscribers across the countries it operates in, with 186 million in India.