Digicel Group has officially thrown its hat in the ring to be considered for a telecommunications licence in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The company said that it submitted its expression of interest in a bidding process, which is expected to yield two new licenced operators within the next five months.
Already, at least four other telecommunications companies have officially expressed interest, according to several news reports, and the tender selection committee has pushed back the deadline for submissions by 10 working days to February 8.
Even while the deadline extension may allow even more suitors to show their interest, the companies that emerge the winner will have to have deep pockets to meet the Government's push for higher teledensity.
Myanmar's government aims to increase overall teledensity to 75 per cent to 80 per cent by 2016, even though the 5.4 million mobile phone subscribers and the 600,000 fixed-line users, as at the end of December, placed teledensity at less than ten per cent of the population.
Digicel's founder Denis O'Brien has already said he is willing to lay down significant capital. He was quoted by the The Myanmar Times in September to say that he was prepared to invest up to US$1 billion into developing the telecommunications network. But Singapore's SingTel, Norway's Telenor, Malaysia's Axiata Bharti, and India's Airtel are also named among the bidders.
What the selection committee will use to decide who gets the licences are still not clear, but the country will require the winners of the two nationwide telecommunications licences to "meet or exceed specified population and geographic coverage targets".