Burma has granted licences to Norway’s Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo to set up the country’s first foreign-owned mobile phone networks.
Fewer than six million of the country’s 60 million people have mobile phones. The government is trying to push the rate to 80 per cent by 2016.
The licences were awarded despite an 11th-hour push by MPs to delay a decision until a new telecommunications law is passed. Burma became one of the most isolated and poorest nations during a half-century of military rule.
After taking control of a quasi-civilian government in 2011, former general Thein Sein started implementing political and economic reforms. The communications industry is in need of an overhaul, in part because the original network was intended for only a tiny number of subscribers. Up until a few years ago, the cost of SIM cards could reach $2,000.