RANGOON — Electronics firm HTC, which was co-founded by Burmese-born entrepreneur Peter Chou, is confident that Burma’s the telecoms sector will begin to grow at a rapid pace next year.
The Mandalay-born Chou co-founded the company in Taiwan in 1997 and is now CEO of HTC, one of the world’s leading makers of smartphones and tablets. He has taken in interest in his country of birth in recent years. In January, HTC launched a smartphone that can use Burmese script.
On Wednesday, at an event to launch the HTC Desire 600c dual-SIM phone to the Burmese market, HTC’s head of marketing in Burma, Richard See told the Irrawaddy that he is optimistic about the country’s nascent telecoms market.
“Burma’s telecom sector will grow relatively fast next year. We can see big potential next year because now there are very limited SIM cards here. We can possibly get a bigger market share next year,” See said.
“Our CEO was born here, which is one of the key factors in us looking at the potential market in Burma.”
He said HTC was particularly excited by the potential for young people in Burma—who already make up about two-thirds of smartphone users—to become major consumers.
“In the future, adoption will be very quick in Burma. I think maybe in one or two years Burma will become like Thailand and Singapore,” he said.
HTC set up two service centers and three sales centers in Rangoon and Mandalay, and is still looking to open more stores. But See said he was unsure what the company’s current market share is.
“We can say we are playing in the mid- and higher-level of the market here, because our devices cost between US$150 and $850,” he said.
HTC handsets work on both the GSM network and CDMA—a type of network with which a limited number of brands’ handsets are compatible.
See said HTC’s main competitors in Burma are brands such as Samsung, LG and Sony. Apple, which makes the iPhone, will not be a major competitor as phones using Google’s Android operating system are more popular, he said.
A state monopoly in Burma’s telecoms sector has meant a limited number of SIM cards are available, fueling high prices for SIM cards on the black market. But in June, the government named Qatar’s Ooredoo and Norway’s Telenor as the winners of a tender to become the first two private firms to win telecoms licenses.
The companies have promised to rapidly expand the country’s mobile and Internet networks, and Telenor has said cheap SIM cards will be widely available from eight months after the firm receives a license from the government.
The numbers of mobile phone and Internet users in Burma are expected to surge from current levels that are among the lowest in the world.
“Everyone is trying to produce a new product, we have to concentrate to be aware in this the market. The mobile market is very aggressive,” See said.
“Everyone is now waiting for the operators who won the telecoms tender to work with the government,” See said. “I expect that there will be SIM cards available from them in the second quarter next year.”