Monday, September 25, 2017

SIM prices could hit K50,000: shops

The era of low-cost SIM cards has nearly arrived – but industry experts in Mandalay are not expecting phone connections to be as cheap as the government has promised.

Massive demand and limited supply of the CDMA SIM cards means they are likely to be resold at prices above their face value of K1500 when they are released on April 24.

The government has promised to make 350,000 available each month but some are tipping that consumers will be forced to pay as much as K50,000.

“Certainly, cards will be resold for at least K20,000 or K30,000, at the absolute minimum, on the black market because the official price is so cheap but the number available is very low,” Ko Myo from Anycall Mobile Phone and Accessories told The Myanmar Times last week.

“Even though the government has warned that the cards will be invalidated if they are not used within 15 days so that they are not hoarded, they can simply be recharged to keep them active and then sold for a higher price,” he said.

“It definitely won’t be easy to buy a K1500 card like it is to get a K200,000 SIM now because supply will be much lower.”

Ko Thiha Tun, manager of Super Mobile, said consumers might have to pay as much as K50,000 initially.

“There will definitely be a black market to some extent given the limited supply. We predict Mandalay will have a tiny allocation … because the 350,000 cards is for the entire country. But there will certainly be thousands of people [in Mandalay] who want to buy a K1500 card,” Ko Thiha Tun said.

The owner of one phone shop on Mandalay’s 30th Street predicted the release of the SIMs would be “chaos”.

“Even if the government let us buy some of the SIM cards, we wouldn’t take them up on the offer. We are afraid people will throw stones into our shop if we don’t have enough to meet all the demand. There could very well be chaos outside the Myanma Post and Telecommunication office when the new SIM cards are released,” the phone shop owner said.

The release is likely to spark a large increase in sales of Huawei handsets, as the Chinese company is one of just a handful that offers CDMA 800MHz phones.

These handsets range in price from just K20,000 up to K300,000, and phone shops reported last week that consumers were already buying CDMA phones ahead of the April 24 release date.

“Our shop has already added a wide variety of phone accessories and expanded our counter for CDMA 800 phones so there won’t be a shortage,” said Ko Thiha Tun.

While news of the cheap SIM cards has been welcomed, Mandalay residents said they were concerned about the transparency of the distribution process.

“The lack of transparency is the main problem for the public. We can’t know clearly how the government will allocate them to the states and regions,” said on resident, who asked not to be named. “They’ve also released no details about what measures they are taking to make sure the network can cope with all the new users. Already the lines are congested because there aren’t enough mobile towers.”

Translated by Zar Zar Soe