The availability of communications services is a fair indicator of economic health and a country’s rising fortunes.
Since the end of military rule, Myanmar has gone from a telephone density of 13 per cent to 127 per cent and seen internet users rise from less than two million to over 45 million. Not too many countries can boast such a steep upward growth curve.
Now Myanmar wants to achieve something equally vertiginous with spectrum – doubling available radio frequencies for IMT to 830 MHz by the end of 2021.
That would put the nation on the same level as Japan and South Korea today, which is heady stuff. Is it achievable? Probably, because a history of under-releasing spectrum gives the government and regulator plenty of headroom. They also benefit from a progressive mindset. Even if they fall somewhat short, that would still represent decent progress.
Knowing there is sufficient spectrum in the future for 4G and 5G encourages long term investment, says a Myanmar government white paper. Going further, releasing as much as possible also increases the chances of innovation and hence economic progress.
It’s interesting to note that Myanmar is benchmarking itself against South Korea and Japan. One of these is a country whose prosperity is heavily focused on leadership in the mobile industry. The other used to be a pioneer (remember i-mode?) and is now striving to regain its lost leadership position.
Japan’s quest involves being a prime mover in 5G and introducing new competition in the form of newcomer Rakuten. Both actions involve releasing more spectrum into the marketplace. It’s impossible to move forward otherwise. Some of Asia’s underperformers could take note. Many countries are hoarders of valuable assets who could adopt similar programmes to Myanmar’s but chose not to do so. They hope to prosper from maintaining artificial scarcity. That approach has never seemed more anachronistic.•