By Feng Yingqiu
YANGON, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar government has granted telecommunication operating licenses to two foreign companies -- Telenor of Norway and Ooredoo of Qatar.
Presented by the Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), the initial 15-year licenses will be effective from Feb. 5.
The two companies said they will distribute 1,500-Kyat mobile phone sim cards of 3G system in eight to nine months and the system will be upgraded to 4G as a follow-up.
The companies predicted that 97 percent of Myanmar's population will have access to mobile phones in five years.
Telenor Group, based in Oslo, Norway, has mobile operations in 11 countries across Europe and Asia, while Ooredoo, formerly known as Qatar Telecom (Qtel) and based in Doha, was newly branded as Ooredoo in March 2013.
Myanmar government invited public tender from local and international investors for two telecommunications operator service licenses in January 2013 and the two companies won the tender in June.
Altogether 91 telecommunication companies at home and abroad including multi-national ones bid for the tender.
Beginning in April 2013, MPT started to sell 350,000 first-ever low-prized sim cards across the country on monthly basis to enable ordinary people to use mobile phones at reasonable prices.
With a presented pre-paid top-up of 300 Kyats, the unit price of MECTEL-branded low-cost sim card (CDMA-800 MHz) is charged at 1, 500 Kyats (about 1.72 U.S. dollars), a sharp drop from 1.5 million Kyats (some 1,704 U.S. dollars) when such sim cards were first introduced more than a decade ago.
MPT first reduced the price from 1.5 million Kyats to 500,000 kyats (568 U.S. dollars) in February 2011 and then to 200,000 kyats (227 U.S. dollars) in April 2012.
The government has laid down a policy framework for the development of the country's telecommunication ICT industry by facilitating competition of both local and international operators in the sector.
The tender targets to increase tele-density to 75-80 percent in 2015-16, to make the telecommunication services available to the public at affordable prices and to give the public capability of choice for the telecom services.
The MPT has also worked out a plan to privatize its telecommunication industry.