MYTEL, the new fourth company, has promised 4G to 95% within three years, investing well over $1B. They will launch their 4G-only network with 7K base stations across most of the country early in 2018. Adjusted for population, they begin with about 80% of the cell sites of Verizon or AT&T and rapidly surpass the U.S. giants.
90% to 95% LTE coverage is rapidly becoming common across the developing world. Reliance Jio is soon at 95% as well. On the other hand, while South Africa claims 99% 3G coverage, ICASA estimates only 75% 4G. Today's 4G is three to eight times as efficient as 3G and hence much cheaper per bit. Almost all networks are rapidly upgrading.
The wireless explosion in Myanmar is almost miraculous. Six years ago, fewer than 1% had mobile phones. Today, Bloomberg estimates 90% are connected.
90% connected sounds a little high to me, as does MPT's estimate they reach 98% of the country.
Viettel will own 49% of MYTEL. The remaining 51% will be split between MEC and local companies. MEC is controlled by the Myanmar military and. Viettel by the Vietnamese government. To reach the less served, governments are increasingly jumping in. All of Rome will get fiber home courtesy of the government power and water company. India is running fiber to an amazing 250,000 villages, of which about 30,000 are starting to connect endusers.
The three current carriers - Norway's Telenor, Ooredoo of Qatar, and Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT) - have nearly saturated urban middle-class market, so MYTEL from day one will target rural areas and lower prices. That explains why they want to expand even to extreme rural areas.
That the Myanmar military is bringing the Internet to so many is admirable. Don't forget, however, "the Myanmar military began torching entire villages with helicopters and petrol bombs, aided by Buddhist vigilantes from the ethnic Rakhine group, those fleeing the violence said.
Person after person along the trail into Bangladesh told of how the security forces cordoned off Rohingya villages as the fire rained down, and then shot and stabbed civilians. Children were not exempt." New York Times