Myanmar's telecoms tender shows up tensions

Parliament at odds with government over need for protectionist measures

 
A man speaking on a telephone in Yangon. Myanmar's move to open up its largely untapped telecoms sector to foreign firms is likely to speed up infrastructure development and boost cellphone penetration. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

THE issuing of 15-year telecommunications licences last week in the virtually untapped Myanmar market, to Norway's Telenor Group and Qatar's Ooredoo, was widely welcomed for the effect that greater mobile phone penetration will have on people's lives in one of Asia's poorest nations.

Another bidder, France Telecom's Orange, in partnership with Japan's Marubeni Communications, was named as a backup candidate in case either winner failed to meet "post-selection requirements".

Still, observers say the contract awards have revealed some facets of doing business in a country that is just starting to open up its doors - not all welcome.

The good news is that the bidding process was widely lauded for its transparency. Also, Telenor and Ooredoo won their bids as sole operators with no local partners - seen as a major plus as they can avoid working with Myanmar firms that might be considered cronies of the military.

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