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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   23 April  2012

Burmese GSM phone coverage to expand to Asean

22 April 2012
 GSM phone coverage in Burma will be expanded to Asean member countries by June, according to reports.
Burma telecommunication authorities will expanded to most Association of Southeast Asian Nations in a move linked to improving the telecommunications sector to increase foreign investments, according to an article in Popular News. Discussions are ongoing between Burma and the respective countries.

The GSM SIM cards of China and Vietnam have been in use in Burma under a pilot project since Burma’s annual gems emporium was held in March last year and GSM mobile phone coverage from ASEAN member countries was also allowed in December last year when Burma was announced as alternate chairman of the regional bloc in 2014.

Authorities are installing 30 million more lines for GSM mobile phone phase by phase through a five-year plan in cooperation with private companies, according to the article.

The World Factbook says that while Burma’s telephone system “meets minimum requirements for local and intercity service for business and government,” it is “barely capable of providing a basic service” for average citizens.
In 2010, the Burmese government had installed a total of 1.3 million mobile phones and 866,084 landlines as of July, the Weekly Eleven journal said, citing statistics released by Myanmar Post and Telecommunications.

In contrast, neighbouring Thailand had 28 million mobile phone users in 2008, or nearly half the population.

Part of the reason for Burma’s late communications development has been the high cost of mobile phones: when GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones were introduced, initial subscription fees were 1.5 million kyat (US $1,500). The average annual wage in Burma is a little over US $250.

Since then, CDMA phones have been introduced at a lower cost, but mobile phones remain well beyond the reach of most Burmese citizens.

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