Myanmar names 12 bidders in race for 2 mobile licences

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar has announced the names of 12 international consortia that have pre-qualified to bid for two mobile phone licences, moving closer to opening one of the last major untapped mobile phone markets.

The companies include India's Bharti Airtel Ltd, China Mobile, Japan's KDDI Corp, Africa's MTN, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, Norway's Telenor SA and Digicel, a group backed by billionaire George Soros.

"The pre-qualified applicants will be required to submit their applications to the committee by June 3, 2013," the Telecommunications Operator Tender Evaluation and Selection Committee said on its website on Thursday.

The committee expects to announce by June 27 the names of two winners to receive 15-year telecommunications licences, it said.

China Mobile has teamed up with Vodafone, while France Telecom-Orange is working with Marubeni, and Africa's MTN with M1 Telecom and Amara Communications.

SingTel has joined with Myanmar Telephone Co Ltd and KBZ, while KDDI has teamed up with Japan's Sumitomo Corp and Myanmar Information and Communication Technology Development Corp.

Other pre-qualifiers are Axiata Group, Millicom International Cellular SA, Qatar Telecom and Viettel Group.

The bidding has attracted wide interest from international telecoms firms, which see huge opportunities in a country of 60 million where mobile penetration is just 5-10 per cent, compared with rates of over 100 per cent in many developed markets.

Myanmar, where SIM cards are prohibitively expensive, has said it hopes to increase mobile penetration to 80 per cent in three years, lifting it off the bottom of the world's ladder of mobile use.