Thai telecom firms eye Myanmar market
Thai companies Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Corp have joined the fray along with global telecom giants in submitting expressions of interest for telecom licences to be issued in Myanmar.
Somprasong Boonyachai, vice chairman of AIS board, said AIS had submitted an expression of interest to the Myanmar government.
True chief executive officer Suphachai Chearavanont said True also sent an expression of interest for telecom licences to the Myanmar government.
AIS chief executive officer Wichian Mektrakarn said that AIS submitted this expression of interest on January 25 and the Myanmar government already informed AIS it had received the submission. AIS was waiting for further details about the licensing.
He said it was the first time that AIS eyed develop a telecom business in the international market under its own name.
Thailand's largest cellular operator AIS is the flagship of InTouch, formerly known as Shin Corp.
Suphachai of True recently said that True group is keen to explore telecom and broadcasting businesses in Myanmar. He also visited the country last year to explore business opportunities.
Myanmar, which has over 60 |million people, recently invited foreign telecom operators to express interest for two telecom service licences.
The country has laid down |policy framework for the development of an telecom and ICT industry by promoting competition of both local and international operators in the sector. Its main goal is to boost the overall tele-density of the country to 75-80 per cent by 2015-2016.
According to the government's latest official data, the mobile base was 5.44 million subscribers at the end of December 2012.
"This year AIS has primarily focused on the Thailand's market and Myanmar is the only overseas market it is interested in," said Somprasong, who also serves as InTouch's executive committee chairman.
Wichian added that as the end of AIS concession was approaching and its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network had clinched a 3G-2.1GHz licence in Thailand, it was a good time for AIS to expand overseas. The AIS concession will end in March 2015.
"We're confident that we're one of the strong regional telecom companies and can compete in the overseas market," he said.
Currently InTouch's satellite operator Thaicom has overseen the group's international telecom operation. Thaicom owns 49 per cent shares of Lao Telecommunications Co (LTC), while the Lao government owns a majority 51-per-cent stakes in LTC. Cambodia-based telecommunication operator Mfone, part of the Thaicom group, recently petitioned for insolvency proceedings in Phnom Penh after facing difficulties in an intensely competitive market and after failing to complete the sale of its shares to INT Management Service Company.
Bloomberg reported on January 25 that Singapore Telecommuni-cations, Malaysia's Axiata Group, ST Telemedia, a unit of Temasek Holdings in Singapore, and Norway's Telenor already submitted similar expressions of interest to the Myanmar government.
SingTel is AIS strategic partner. Temasek has controlled InTouch via its two associates, Cedar Holdings and Aspen Holdings - the latter two hold combined about 54.9 per cent stakes of InTouch.
Wichian said AIS' submission of an expression of interest to Myanmar did not conflict with the submissions by SingTel and Temasek, as this was AIS intention to step into the regional market.
Telenor group also confirms that the company has submitted an expression of interest to partici-|pate in the process of getting a licence to provide mobile telephony services in Myanmar, Glenn Mandelid, director of communications for Telenor in Asia told The Nation via e-mail.
"Myanmar is located in a region with a strong Telenor Group |presence and where we have 15 |years of experience from similar markets, we believe that we are |well-positioned to contribute in developing a successful mobile industry in Myanmar. It is encouraging that the government has started the process of awarding licences," he said.
Telenor is strategic partner of Thailand's second largest cellular operator Total Access Communication.