News for Myanmar
|Burma: Vodafone drops bid to run network in Burma amid human rights worries, Oh Yeah!|
|Myanmar||Created: 2 Jun 2013|
Vodafone has pulled out of plans to build a mobile network in Burma, days before it was due to submit its final licence bid together with China Mobile..
In the Paper Copy of the Daily Telegraph it states: "That it does not meet either company´s strict internal investment criteria"
The operator formed a joint venture with China Mobile and was preparing to deliver its formal bid to Burmese authorities on Monday.
On Friday morning, however, Vodafone said it had agreed with China Mobile to pull out, saying the opportunity does not either company’s “strict internal investment criteria”.
A Vodafone spokeswoman said it was a "commercial decision".
The 11th-hour decision comes amid criticism of the process from human rights groups, however, who argue Burma’s laws do not yet offer protection to telecoms companies, their investors or potential customers.
According to Human Rights Watch, laws imposed by the military junta include a ban on fax machines and modems, strict licensing to operate any kind of computer network and criminal sanctions for spreading “false news”. Although a reforming civilian government is now in charge, the repressive laws remain on the statute books.
In spite of such concerns, the government has set very ambitious targets to have two foreign-owned networks up and running within two years. Less than 10pc of Burma’s population of 48 million currently have a mobile phone after years of very high costs. Meanwhile there are more mobile phones than people in neighbouring Thailand.
The potential of the Burmese mobile market attracted 22 international bidders, which were narrowed down to 12 in April. As well as Vodafone and China Mobile’s joint venture, there are bids backed by investors George Soros and Denis O’Brien. Ericsson claimed new Burmese networks could bring in revenues of $7.3bn (£4.8bn) per year.
In response to Vodafone and China Mobile’s move, Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said the rush to build mobile networks in Burma meant the “cart has come before the horse”. Investors should be wary, he said.
“The story of the new Burma is the triumph of hope over reality at the moment. It’s a gold rush mentality.
“The biggest problem is that many of the repressive laws are still on the books,” he said.
“There hasn’t been significant reform yet and if I’m an investor I’m thinking, ‘what if this place backslides?’ What’s my liability? The military are still there behind the scenes.
“There are supposed to be new telecoms laws but June but nobody has seen them. They are meant to talk about the rights of users and operators around things like government surveillance. All that is unclear right now.
Mr Robertson nevertheless said greater access to telecoms services would have an important role to play in freedom of expression in Burma.
Vodafone and China Mobile said they would “continue to watch Myanmar’s progress with interest and will give due consideration to any future opportunities that would meet the companies’ investment criteria”.
By Christopher WIlliams, Technology, Media and Telecoms Editor
|Click here to view the source article.|
|Source: Agnes Ingvarsdottir.|