A few months after Telenor, Ooredoo launched this month its wireless broadband internet product called Supernet Wireless.
After years of immoderate growth on mobile, Myanmar market is getting to a point of saturation. To pursue their revenue intake, mobile operators have no choice than to look at new revenue streams.
Home broadband represents a low-hanging fruit considering they already own the infrastructure and market is still low penetrated.
We talked in details about the state of fixed broadband internet in Myanmar but for those catching up, there are three type of Internet service providers in Myanmar:
- Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) using unlicensed spectrum for the last mile. This fixed wireless technology works well in rural or suburban areas but in the city, the spectrum gets rapidly crowded which generate interference and performance issue. The high speed technology is affordable, easy to deploy, but not sustainable. Other disadvantage, it is not plug and play as it requires the installation of an outdoor antenna connected to the modem indoor. Among the ISP’s operating this technology, we can name MyanmarNet, NetCore or AGB.
- Fiber Internet Service Providers (FTTH) deliver services over the fastest and most reliable medium when it comes to broadband: fiber. But fiber is not easy to roll out and FTTH providers struggle to extend their reach fighting for right of way and against expensive rollout costs. Myanmar Speednet, Welink and Unilink are some of the ISPs that have chosen to go down that path.
- Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISPs) in licensed spectrum (4G) operate a technology of choice, mature, scalable and a good fit for rapid deployment hence perfect for home Internet. Ananda is the first operator in Myanmar operating a wireless network in licensed spectrum. However, the new service provider is crippled with coverage issues.
Regardless of the technology, ISPs in Myanmar are all struggling with growth and this represents an opportunity for the mobile operators.
The four mobile operators all launched their fiber to the home (FTTH) products consecutively. But they are facing the same challenges as existing players to extend their reach and scale up.
A last option remains to grasp home broadband market. It is probably the most obvious and some may wonder why mobile operators have been so timid to explore that option till today.
Home Wireless with 4G
Mobile operators in Myanmar are all proud owner of 4G spectrum. This is this very same spectrum that fuel their mobile network and allow subscribers to enjoy HD videos on their smartphone without buffering.
This same technology can be used to connect millions of homes with the help of a 4G wireless router.
Once installed into your home, this router will act as a bridge between the 4G network and the newly created Wi-Fi network which allow you to share this 4G connection with up to 30 users simultaneously.
Home Wireless seems like a no-brainer so why the mobile operators in Myanmar did not launch it years ago?
It goes without saying that mobile operators always had this opportunity in hand, a very tempting opportunity. Saying that, offering home broadband on the same 4G network that your mobile customers can also be a two-edged sword.
Radio network bandwidth is far from being unlimited and is usually the choke point of a mobile network. Every byte consumed by home broadband is a byte not available for a mobile user.
So the question that the operators ask themselves is which customer is the most valuable? And the answer is definitely the mobile subscriber.
Why? Because he does not only pay for data but also voice, SMS, VAS, games etc… As such, he needs to be cherished and protected, he belongs to the mobile operator core revenue and any change that may affect his satisfaction needs to be carefully studied.
So why now?
Over the past 12 months, mobile operators have been performing significant upgrades on their 4G network, they also acquired new spectrum in order to improve the network overall performance.
As of today, Myanmar has one of the fasted mobile Internet in ASEAN region.
Telenor and Ooredoo decided that they are ready to take that chance and open up their network to home broadband. But they got into this game very cautiously and here is why.
In July 2018, Telenor launched it home wireless broadband service but the new offer comes with terms.
First, the customer needs to check the service availability at his home address and don’t think that this availability is only defined by 4G coverage.
To check Telenor service availability, customer inputs his home address on the following URL.
The tool processes the request and informs the subscriber whether the service is available at the selected coverage area.
We have found several locations in Yangon covered by Telenor 4G where the tool returns that the service is not available.
The main reason is that Telenor is avoiding to offer home broadband on congested cells where it needs its full radio capacity to serve mobile customers. Smart move.
With this approach, Telenor improves overall his return of investment by filling up the empty cells with paying customers but limit the risk to see its customer experience impacted by the new service.
Ooredoo Supernet Wireless, a different approach
Ooredoo launched this month Supernet Wireless with a different approach than Telenor.
On paper, it is exactly the same offer. Customer pays 75,000 Ks for a wireless internet connection with 3 months of unlimited internet at 5 Mbps. After 3 months, the customer can renew the internet access for 3 more months at 65,000 Ks. This is exactly the same price and speed than Telenor.
The big difference with Ooredoo Supernet Wireless is that the service is not tied to a location. Supernet Wireless is available everywhere as long as there is coverage.
To protect its mobile customers, Ooredoo has a different strategy: Fair Usage Policy.
Supernet Wireless Fair Usage Policy prevents the worst offenders from sucking up all the radio resources. Ooredoo Supernet FUP is still extremely high: 10 GB per day. After 10 GB of data usage, the download speed reduces from 5mbps to 1mbps.
Supernet Wireless also embed a specific fair usage policy on Peer to Peer (BitTorrent) and filesharing. If the customer consumes more than 3 GB of Peer to Peer within a day, download speed will be reduced to 512kbps until next day.
Telenor and Ooredoo have both stepped into this new market with different approach. Saying that, both offers are extremely exciting and will be a major hit in the market. Both deals are affordable and the speed is good enough to stream HD videos without any buffering.
With these new wireless products, some of the Internet Service Providers in Myanmar are under threat.
Already in bad shape, a new wave of churn can be fatal for some of them.
Among the ISP’s, Ananda is probably the one that invested the more money into its license and infrastructure. As such, the Internet provider has a high pressure to scale up fast. Telenor and Ooredoo new deal is definitely a bad news for the newcomer already in trouble with heavy coverage issue.
When we compare Ananda price with Ooredoo and Telenor, the 4G service provider is way out in left field.
On the unlimited plans, Ananda is not competitive. Worst, the ISP Fair Usage Policy is only 100GB for 30 days compared to 10GB per day for Ooredoo (300GB over 1 month) and none for Telenor.
Ananda is only competitive on the volume based plans where its rate per GB is in average 25% cheaper than the mobile operators (750Ks per GB vs 1000Ks per GB blended rate).
Still, there is no way the service provider can afford to give up its spearhead which was definitely the unlimited plans.
As we wrote in a recent article, Ananda stepped on the mobile operator’s toes by starting to sell standalone SIM, eyeing to become the Internet wallet of mobile users in Yangon.
War is declared and it would not be surprising to see Mytel join the hostilities anytime soon.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.