|In just a year Mytel’s 4G base transceiver stations have cropped up all over Myanmar, even in rural, mountainous and remote areas. — VNS Photo|
HCM CITY — In 2016, when Wai Zin Min was 20, his country went through an event that would change its history: the US lifted its two-decade-old embargo on Myanmar.
Wai Zin Min was a student at a top university in Myanmar and understood that the lifting of the embargo would change not only his generation but also many future generations.
Soon after, Myanmar’s economy and society underwent significant changes and opportunities arose for new graduates like Wai Zin 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, but of course he was not the only Myanmarese to join the company.
Min and his compatriots, along with 60 Vietnamese youths, created “a 1,000-soldier-army” 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 aimed to have a network of 7,000 4G base transceiver stations (BTSs) and more than 30,000km of fibre-optic cable, which would enable Myanmar to have a real broadband network.
Mytel faced many difficulties in installing this infrastructure as the newest entrant in the market and because of extreme weather 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 four to five 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.
As many as 1,000 Mytel workers had to install their telecom network over a total area of 700,000sq.m.
Most of Myanmar is still poor and without good transport links 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 spirit of the Vietnamese who arrived to work with the Myanmarese. They ignored the difficulties and focused on the goals they had to achieve.
After a year of toiling what the Mytel staff accomplished was scarcely believable: they had dug holes, laid optic-fibre cables and installed a huge number of base transceiver stations.
Today Mytel, Myanmar’s fourth mobile phone company, will officially begin operations. In its first year Mytel will have telecom infrastructure with more than 7,000 4G BTSs and more than 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 a new company.
In the remote, mountainous Kachin, it is incredibly hard to believe that a newly established mobile service provider can offer 4G services.
Min said: “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’.”
“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.
Trương Vũ Sơn, 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.
But for those who had to race to install a 4G network throughout Myanmar, the grand opening hasn’t come a second too soon. — VNS