Vietnam telecom firm to bid for mobile services in Myanmar

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 Only 10 percent of Myanmarese use cell phones since services are very expensive

Vietnam's military-run telecom firm Viettel is bidding for a mobile license in Myanmar.

Viettel is set to join a bid along with 17 other international telecom firms for two new mobile licenses in the country, news website thoibaokinhtesaigon reported April 9.

The others include Malaysia's Axiata, India's Bharti Airtel, China Telecom, Singapore's SingTel, France Telecom/Orange, and South Africa's MTN.

Also bidding are British group Vodafone, the world's second-largest telco by both subscribers and revenue, and state-owned China Mobile Ltd, one of the largest by market capitalization.

The two, however, have announced plans for a joint bid for one of the licenses.

The winners of the bids will be allowed to build and operate the networks for 15 years.

The bids are together valued at more than US$1.5 billion, according to estimates by local analysts.

Tong Viet Trung, deputy general director of Viettel, said a careful assessment by his firm found Myanmar to be a potentially lucrative telecom market.

Only 10 percent of the country's 64 million people use mobile phones due to the cost involved: The average price of a SIM card is $240-300.

The government recently said it wants to increase the number to 80 percent by 2016.

Viettel operates in seven countries -- Cameroon, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Peru, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

Last year its revenues from overseas operations were nearly $600 million, while profit was up 85 percent to $76 million.

This year it targets 20 percent growth in Vietnam and 50 percent abroad.

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