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|In just one year Mytel’s 4G base transceiver stations have cropped up all over Myanmar, even in rural, mountainous and remote areas|
In 2016, when Wai Zin Min was 20, Myanmar went through an event that would change its history: the US lifted its two-decade embargo on his country.
Min was a student at a leading university in Myanmar and understood that the lifting of the embargo would change not only his generation but also many future generations in Myanmar.
Right after that Myanmar’s economy and society underwent significant changes and opportunities arose for newly graduated people like Min.
He decided to work for Mytel, a newly established joint venture between Viettel Global, a Viettel subsidiary, and its two local partners, Star High Public Company and Myanmar National Telecom Holding Public, after turning down job offers from several other foreign companies. Min became one of the first Mytel technicians.
Min and his compatriots, along with 60 Vietnamese youths, created “an army with 1,000 soldiers” to race against time to deploy one of the most unique telecom networks in the world: installing 4G infrastructure for the whole country, a country where only 5 per cent of the population had used mobile phones a few years earlier.
The plan had an ambitious goal: by the time of its opening Mytel must have a network of 7,000 4G base transceiver stations (BTSs) and over 30,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable, which would enable Myanmar to have a real broadband network.
Mytel faced many difficulties in installing its huge infrastructure as the newest entrant in the market and because of extreme climatic conditions and poor transportation.
Myanmar has two seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season lasts only a month, but it rains day and night. Sometimes, the sun cannot be seen for 4 – 5 days and widespread floods 2 – 3 metres high occur.
The rest of the time is dry but the weather is severe. Myanmar is considered an “Africa inside Asia”.
1,000 Mytel workers had to install their telecom network over a total area of 700,000 square kilometres to be able to connect every single person.
Most of Myanmar is still poor and without good transport due to the long, crippling embargo. Most rural areas have primitive transportation. Mud roads account for the majority at district and commune levels.
During the rainy season no vehicle can traverse these mud roads, and materials and equipment are transported by hand.
Such difficulties did not deter the fighting spirit of the Vietnamese who arrived to work side by side with the Myanmarese. They did not even consider these difficulties challenges. They ignored them and focused only on the goals they had to achieve.
|If you are a Viettel subscriber and travelling to Myanmar, you can get 4G services even in rural and remote areas at the same rates as in Vietnam|
After one year of toiling what the Mytel staff accomplished was scarcely believable: they had dug holes, laid optic-fibre cables and installed base transceiver stations.
On June 9 Mytel, Myanmar’s 4th mobile phone company, will officially begin operations. Right in its first year Mytel will have telecom infrastructure with more than 7,000 4G BTSs and over 30,000km of optic-fibre cable.
Min and the other 1,000 Viettel staff have installed telecom infrastructure that none of the three existing mobile phone service providers can match. And of the 10 nations where Viettel operates, Myanmar is where it has installed infrastructure fastest, especially for 4G.
In Kachin, the northernmost state in Myanmar and the one with the country’s tallest mountain, locals were sceptical when first told they would be able to access the internet on their smart phones using 4G services provided by Mytel.
In the remote, mountainous and craggy place that is Kachin, it is incredibly hard to believe that a newly established mobile service provider can offer 4G services to the local people.
“Mytel was the name chosen by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, and means ‘telecommunications network of Myanmarese," Min said. “There is no reason for the fact that people who live in the capital and other cities can get 4G services but not rural and remote residents. This is our mission: to connect Myanmarese nationwide.”
Like all other Mytel staff, Min is eager for the grand opening ceremony today.
Truong Vu Son, director of the Mytel office in Naypyidaw, capital of Myanmar, said: “I have been waiting for the opening day for a very long time.” His “very long time” refers to the one year and four months since he arrived in Myanmar.