According to Myanmar Times, the next 4G spectrum auction is scheduled for March 2017.
This auction will allow the winning bidders (more likely mobile operators) to benefit from additional spectrum for their 4G services.
MPT, Telenor and Ooredoo already launched 4G in 2016 but performance has been sub-optimal due to lack of spectrum available.
4G: a loose term
The throughput capacity on wireless networks is mainly related to the frequency span allocated to carry the bits between the end user and the nearest base station.
With 5Mhz span, 64QAM modulation and 2xMIMO, the maximum throughput achievable is 38 mbps in a lab environment.
In our recent Ooredoo 4G review, we were unable to achieve speed higher than 15mbps on the field.
With MPT 4G, we managed to reach 25mbps just after the launch. Note that the service is only available on specific locations in Yangon and Nay Pi Taw.
Knowing that ITU defines 4G (IMT-Advanced) as a technology that offers speeds of 100Mbps on mobile or 1Gbps on fixed wireless connections, these results are quite disappointing.
Saying that, there are many examples all over the world of mobile operators and ISP’s that cannot resist the temptation of a marketing buzz and label 4G their 3G HSPA+ network or Wimax network. It goes without saying that they struggle to deliver one tenth of the promised 100mbps. Label 4G on 5Mhz LTE seems like a lesser evil.
Nevertheless, Telenor CEO himself declared in the same article:
It’s important to understand that 4G is a new technology and nobody has launched with a real 4G experience [in Myanmar]
With 1800MHz you have a chance to provide the Myanmar consumers with a real 4G experience
In Myanmar, the entire 1800Mhz band is still available: 1710 – 1785/ 1805 -1880. That is 150 Mhz (75Mhz+75Mhz) to be divided equally between the three mobile operators.
Even so, the Ministry of Transport and Communications would probably decide to keep some spectrum available for the 4th operator and auction three lots of 20+20Mhz. 15Mhz+15Mhz will remain for the fourth one.
With 2x20Mhz on 2x2MIMO 64QAM, the maximum throughput per cell would be 150Mbps according to the 4G LTE throughput calculator.
With this new spectrum allocation, mobile operators will be able to deliver a real 4G experience to their customers. The challenge will remain in their aptitude to control the radio congestion and perform the necessary upgrades as the traffic grows.
A marketing challenge
Another interesting question is to see how mobile operators will communicate on this spectrum allocation. They cannot re-launch 4G obviously so what marketing trick would they use to communicate to customers about this brand new Internet experience.
For Telenor and MPT, this will probably be easier as their 4G is currently available only in very specific locations (Nay Pi Taw for Telenor, specific indoor locations in Yangon and Nay Pi Taw for MPT).
Following the spectrum bid, these two operators will certainly expand their 4G coverage and communicate about it.
For Ooredoo, communication will be tricky. Its “4G Plus” network is widely available in Yangon, Nay Pi Taw, Mandalay and Bagan according to its coverage map. So far, the difference between Ooredoo 4G, Telenor 3G and MPT 3G remains tiny.
Next year, the Qatar-based operator will be facing the massive launch of its two competitors. From a marketing standpoint, the challenge will be to tell a new story to differentiate their “old 4G” from “new 4G” so that customers understand that whatever is happening on the competition network is also happening in theirs.