The history of SIM cards in Myanmar

I love the graph showing how a SIM card price has changed in Myanmar. It starts at USD7000 in 1998. A lot has changed since that year.

Shortly before I came to Myanmar for the first time, in March 2012 the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs (MCPT) announced that the cost of a SIM card would be halved. The price dropped from 500,000 kyats (USD625) to between 200,000 and 250,000 kyats (USD250-USD312). With the average monthly salary of USD100 , hardly any common person could afford a SIM card. There were as well prepaid cards that cost USD20 with no option to top up. When I came to live in Myanmar in October 2012, I decided I needed to be accessible via phone. There were three options: buying temporary SIM card, buying a permanent number or renting a SIM card. As I expected to find work soon, I decided to buy just a temporary one. So I paid USD20 instead of USD260 for a permanent one. Luckily I found job fast enough, otherwise nobody would have been able to get through. The card was valid for one month only or till I consume 45 minutes. Once it was done, I needed to buy a new card with a different number.  Guess why such a policy! I was without a phone just for two weeks or so as in December I was given a card by my employer.

When the communicated date came, it turned out that they meant CDMA which will be distributed via lucky draw system. Each township gets a few card and those interested were to make sure the lucky draw organizers put their name on the list and then, if they are lucky, they would get a card. Of course, expats couldn’t compensate from the distribution.

After some time the government decided that the pre-paid cards need to be returned to them and sine then they have not been accessible. It is possible to rent a phone with a card at the airport just after entering the country.

In March 2013, SIM card cost app. USD 260. And in Arpil 2013, when I left the country for a month, it was annouced the card is supposed to cost USD2. It sounded like a big change – drop in prize by more than 1000%. Sounded like a revolution. Everybody was excited. But then some more detailed information was released and in practice only Myanmar people could buy them after the declared their need.

sim cards prices

At the moment (January 2015), there is one national provider (MPT) and two commercial companies: Ooredoo (Qatar) and Telenor (Norwegian). The SIM cards’ prices are, respectively, the equivalence of USD5 and USD1,5 (both foreign companies).

 

 

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