Last month I visited Myanmar for the first time to meet with a number of our Members who attended the inaugural Myanmar Network Operators’ Group (MMNOG) meeting.
Over the last few years, I’ve been watching with interest how Myanmar’s telecommunications industry has blossomed. Deregulation, changes to industry oversight policies, and issuance of ISP licenses to many organizations have helped the Myanmar government to nurture Internet infrastructure growth in the country; steps which it hopes will fuel economic and social progress.
The formation of MMNOG is another example of the industry blossoming. But, it is also an indication that the industry realises it needs to look at the bigger picture beyond what is currently available, and teach its workforce the full range of Internet technologies.
Mobile jumpstart to Internet
Like many Asia Pacific economies, Myanmar relies heavily on mobile as its primary means to connect to the Internet. According to the Internet Society’s 2015 Global Internet Report, mobile Internet device penetration is currently growing at 23%, faster than any other region in the world.
Mobile networks allow for a faster rollout of the Internet than broadband and in some economies can be a cheaper and faster option for users. However, having a dominant mobile Internet network has meant that few operators understand the basics of how the wired Internet actually works, as is the case in Myanmar. In a sense, they’ve used mobile to jumpstart the Internet in Myanmar but now need to learn the fundamentals of how it all works.
Establishing a NOG is a great way for local network operators to come together to develop their capacity in this area, discuss the challenges, learn about best practices, and network in a human capacity. During my presentation (below) on Internet infrastructure comparisons and how different networks within the Asia Pacific region interconnect, it was heartening to see a real enthusiasm to learn among the group. This trait will be important as they continue to grow.
Developing relationships between Government and Industry
During my visit I also took the time to meet with Myanmar’s telecommunication regulator, Post and Telecom Department (PTD), introducing APNIC’s services to Director General, Mr. Soe Thein. We have established a dialogue with the PTD for quite some time and provided training to their staff earlier this year on Internet Resource Management (IRM), Routing, IPv6 and ccTLD Management.
I discussed continuing this training into the future and also pointed out our eLearning training. The fact that network operators can use the Internet to learn how to build the Internet was not lost on me at this time.
From my discussion I also noted that there is a need for increased communication and consultation between the regulator and industry. A great outcome from the meeting was being able to inform PTD about the benefits of MMNOG and encouraging them to attend the meeting the following day, to help break down the barriers. The participants and organizer at MMNOG were appreciative of this and I hope that this will, in turn, open and strengthen the dialogue between the two – an important facet to developing the Internet in any economy.
The way Myanmar has introduced and developed its Internet, predominantly via mobile networks, is quite common in developing economies. It is important, however, to eventually learn that the Internet is actually an ecosystem of multiple, interconnected independent networks, running a variety of transmission technologies including fibre optic, copper, satellite, laser, and other wireless media.
The maturity of both the government and the industry is commendable in terms of their willingness to now focus on building a robust broadband Internet, as are the positive steps both are taking to improve dialogue.
With these fundamental principles in place the next steps will be to: create more Internet gateways to bring down the cost; establish carrier neutral IXPs; and develop more network nodes that comprise ISPs, academics, and corporates. These things wont happen overnight, but given the incredible rate that Myanmar is getting up to speed, I’m positive that on my next visit many will be in motion.
The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.