Today we are going to review the biggest ISP for the consumer market in Myanmar : Myanmar Net. Myanmar Net was launched in 2015 by Frontiir as their consumer leg. Frontiir Communications is a large ICT provider in Myanmar serving exclusively the corporate segment. Capitalizing on their existing infrastructure, Frontiir decided to launch a new brand which goal is to provide affordable services to the mass market and to compete with the mobile operators.
MyanmarNet has quickly become very popular thanks to its ambitious sales and marketing strategy. Very active in the social networks, occupying a strong presence in the new high-end mall in Yangon (Myanmar Plaza), MyanmarNet does what need to be done to seduce the millennials.
Frontiir’s enfant terrible was the first Internet service provider to reduce the barrier to entry below $100. With a setup cost at 47,000 MMK, MyanmarNet ranks itself among the mobile operators as an affordable broadband solution for the mass.
Technology-wise, Myanmar Net operates two different techniques to serve customers.
FTTB (Fiber to the Building)
Myanmar Net is available in ten corporate buildings and condos in Yangon and constantly expanding to new ones:
Bargayar Condo, Sanchaung
Khaymar Residence, Sanchaung
Mindama Condo Housing, Mayangone
Royal Malikha Condo, Mayangone
Thiri Condo, Mayangone
Pansodan Business, Kyouktada
La Pyae Wun Plaza, Dagon
Inya View Condo, Kamaryut
Chan Thar Condo, Migalartaungnyut
Punhlaing Siloam Hospital, Hlaing Tharyar
WiFi 2.4 Ghz / 5 Ghz
Myanmar Net operates WiFi to connect customers in downtown area. Unlike Netcore, True Net or Bluewave Broadband that are operating in Point to Multipoint 5GHz with directional antennas, Myanmar Net operates in dual band 2.4 / 5 Ghz “coverage mode”, the same technology you would use to connect your smartphone or laptop to Internet.
The operator wants to achieve indoor coverage. No more heavy setup, external antenna and cabling, a simple wireless router is sufficient to deliver instant access to Internet. Or you can even connect directly from your laptop if the signal is strong enough.
The WiFi device provided by Myanmar Net is very high end: Ruckus R300. Market price around ~$400.
So how can MyanmarNet achieves such low setup fee?
Router is subsidized heavily. Commercial wise, this is risky but really smart. Frontiir realizes that the reason why Internet providers are struggling to take off in Myanmar is mainly due to heavy installation costs. Most of the customers in Myanmar find more convenient to use cheap, prepaid, non-committal mobile plans.
Data usage is booming in Myanmar but let’s face it, it is only thanks to the mobile operators. Broadband access penetration remains very limited (less than 1% according to the latest official report).
So what are the downsides of such technology?
From a provider perspective, providing indoor 2.4 Ghz / 5 Ghz coverage is very expensive. If you use a Wi-Fi router at home, you may have already faced weak wi fi signal and low throughput when you are one or two room away from your home router. So imagine the same Wi-Fi router installed on a pole in the street. Myanmar Net is installing wireless access points / routers on every electric pole downtown to make sure that every apartment in these streets is covered. And that is not a simple job.
From a customer perspective, even if the performance can be good at first, our experts are very doubtful Myanmar Net will be able to maintain a decent quality of service using this technology. As the wireless access point gets crowded with customers, wireless performance will rapidly be degraded. Signal will become weak and Internet access slowing down. Still, the choice of Ruckus for its last mile is spot on. Ruckus is one of the best -maybe the best- WiFi vendor and is fantastic at serving many users with limited interference. Myanmarnet announces bandwidth speed up to 10 Mbps. Take note of the “up to” that is quite common in home internet marketing. It means in a good day, if the service is not too crowded and you have a very strong signal, you can achieve 10 Mbps. But in general you will achieve much less.
Another issue is that MyanmarNet customers are all connected to the same “hotspot”. If you read the IT security news, you already know that Public Wifi are insecured. Wi-Fi’s networks are vulnerable. It is very easy for a hacker to pretend to be its neighbor (Man in the Middle attack) and then intercept the wireless communications, capturing sensitive information like passwords or emails.
More and more, Internet websites are shifting to HTTPS encryption preventing such kind of attacks. Still, it is not recommended connecting to your online bank account or your corporate email from a hotspot. So what do you do when the public Wi-Fi is basically your home broadband connection? It looks like Myanmar Net implements Wi-Fi protection : 802.1x authentication. This is a good thing but would it be sufficient? Still in the IT security news, you can find a lot of articles on how 802.1x can be exploited especially when there is no use of digital certificates.
Myanmar Net WiFi service is currently available in the following locations:
And to conclude on this review, these are the service price lists. Two different pricing: CPE and Mobile.
If you decide to go for CPE, Myanmar Net will install a router at your home. This router will allow you to share your Myanmar Net broadband connection across your household.
If you pick Mobile, you will be able to connect directly from your laptop or smartphone to your Myanmar Net connection. You cannot share the connection, reason why this price plan is cheaper than the CPE price plan.
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Myanmar Net is as of today the most successful consumer-oriented Internet Service Provider in Myanmar. Feedbacks are positive about the performance so far. This is a cost-effective solution if you are inside the coverage as long as you are not paranoid about security. If you are paranoid (you should be) and still willing to give it a shot, we strongly recommend using a VPN connection like Hola VPN when you want to access sensitive information.
NB: This information has been collected from non-official (social networks, word to mouth) and official sources (official communication channels and mistery shopper). May some of the above information be false or incomplete, we encourage every service provider to contact us. Our objective is not to promote one Internet Service Provider against the others but to provide the most accurate and extensive source of information on the Internet market in Myanmar.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.