Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ooredoo to roll out next-gen internet service

Ooredoo Myanmar announced yesterday that it will launch 4G internet services this month – making it the first mobile operator in the market to move up from a 3G network.

A man makes a call outside an Ooredoo SIM card shop. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar TimesA man makes a call outside an Ooredoo SIM card shop. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar Times

Yangon and Mandalay will see fourth-generation (4G) services before the rest of the country, as a nationwide rollout would require more spectrum, Ooredoo CEO Rene Meza told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

Mobile operators in the market have said that the country’s migration to 4G hinges upon the availability of spectrum – a limited resource divided into different frequency bands used to carry traffic like data and voice.

Ooredoo’s licence allows the company to buy additional spectrum for a fee, and the telco applied to purchase more a few months ago, Mr Meza said. It has since been granted.

“That will give us enough room for the 4G launch,” he said. “To allow customers to get access to 4G services [across the country], obviously we will need additional spectrum.”

The Qatari mobile operator said in a press release yesterday it was ready to invest more in spectrum pending a government auction.

The availability of spectrum has been a hot topic for players in Myanmar’s telecoms sector.

The government published an updated version of its “spectrum roadmap” in April, which indicates that the Posts and Telecommunications Department (PTD) could make unassigned portions of the 850/900MHz and 2100MHz frequency bands available, as well as the 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2300MHz and 2600MHz bands.

The document, posted to the telecommunications ministry’s web site, includes an illustrated timeline of a proposed spectrum release schedule, which shows the 2600MHz band being released first. This band is scheduled to be made available through auction in the second quarter of 2016, according to the timeline.

Under the same timeline the 1800MHz spectrum could be up for bidding in the first quarter of 2017, or alternatively nine months after the 2600Mhz band is auctioned off.

Mr Meza has argued in the past that the 1800MHz band should be first priority for auction, calling it “ideal for next-generation services”. It remains unclear which frequency would be made available first, he said yesterday.

“We don’t have a concrete date as to when additional spectrum will be released for 4G services, but it is expected to be over the next 12 months,” he said.

In the meantime, Ooredoo will start to roll out 4G services on two frequencies: 900MHz and 2100MHz.

Higher speeds and better service at the same tariffs can be expected when customers move up from 3G to 4G, according to the company.

“The fundamental difference is the throughput and speed [at] which customers can get access to the internet,” Mr Meza said.

Ooredoo’s SIM cards are already 4G-compliant, unlike some other SIMs in the market. Norwegian mobile operator Telenor initiated a SIM card swapping program in January in anticipation of a later launch of 4G services.

But not all mobile devices will be able to access the new services. Mobile shop worker Ma Aye Thuzar said 4G was very handset-selective.

“Only certain types of modern phones can operate a 4G internet connection,” she said.

Meanwhile, mobile users mulled what a switch to next-generation technology would mean.

“I am excited because [4G] means that the internet connection will be better for gaming performance,” said 18-year-old gamer Than Lwin Aung.

“However, I worry about how expensive 4G can be because it will be the fastest mobile internet connection in Myanmar.”


Additional reporting by Naing Lin Tun