Telenor has won the right to build a mobile network in one of the world’s least connected countries.

Myanmar, formally Burma, has agreed to offer licenses to the Norway-based operator and Qatar-based rival Ooredoo.

The two firms will now enter into final discussions with the authorities to acquire a formal telecommunications license “over the coming months”.

Telenor said a full range of mobile services will be commercially launched next year with the aim of achieving nationwide coverage by 2018.

The operator will build the network using HSPA and LTE-ready technologies.

"Telenor is uniquely placed to support the development of a thriving and vibrant telecommunications sector in Myanmar,” commented Sigve Brekke, EVP and head of Telenor Asia.

“We have established leading mobile operations in five dynamic Asian markets and today's announcement underscores the continued success of Telenor's strategy of delivering accessible and affordable mobile communications services across the region.”

According to Analysys Mason, Myanmar’s mobile penetration rate is about 50 percent in the urban areas but roughly 65 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

Telenor president and CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas said the country will be “an important pillar" in the operator's growth strategy.

This strategy is based on four strategic “pillars”: a technically-advanced and extensive mobile network; significant growth in mobile penetration through a rapid network roll-out and providing affordable services through an extensive distribution network across the country; becoming the market leader by offering the most comprehensive portfolio; and offering good quality service and an excellent customer experience to create loyalty and trust with our future customers in Myanmar.  

Telenor beat a shortlist of 12 competitors, including Orange. The France-based operator told European Communications last month that it intended to partner with a non-telco Japanese conglomerate and invest $1 billion on infrastructure.

A Vodafone-China Mobile joint bid formally pulled out of the running in May because the final license conditions “not meet strict internal investment criteria”.

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