Japan consortium to build Myanmar network

Three Japanese corporations will take advantage of their country’s support of Myanmar to construct a large communications network in the heart of the country.

Sumitomo Corporation, NEC Corporation and NTT Communications Corporation – three major Japanese communication technology companies – are seeking to take advantage of Japan’s support of Myanmar to construct a communications network between three of its leading urban centres, according to a joint statement.

This is the first infrastructure project to utilise the most recent Official Development Assistance (ODA) grant from Japan – which totaled JPY 1.71 billion (€13 million; $17 million) promised to the Southeast Asian nation by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) last year.

Since the countries adopted a new economic cooperation policy last April, Myanmar has repeatedly requested the help of the Japanese government in building its communication infrastructure – specifically as its network of landlines, mobile phones, internet and power lines is outdated and “delayed” when compared with neighbouring countries, according to the statement.

After nearly five decades of military dictatorship, Myanmar has made a gradual transition to democracy over the past year and is now trying to re-engage more developed nations for aid and advice. Before military crackdowns brought sanctions on the under-developed country, Japan was one of its closest allies and most consistent sources of aid – and a recent visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicates that nothing has changed.

“The development of this network aims to improve Myanmar’s communications infrastructure to a level that rivals that of developed markets,” the statement said.

The network that the three Japanese corporations are planning will be centered in and between the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw, in the heart of Myanmar. It includes a high-speed core optical transmission network capable of transmitting 30Gbps between the cities. Within each city, the plan details the addition of 50 LTE base stations in each one, fixed-line telephones and optical transmission networks capable of 10Gbps for the internet, according to the statement.

The Japanese corporations believe the new network will be able to support 40,000 LTE communication subscribers, roughly 1.5 million fixed-line telephone subscribers and about 1 million internet users.

The project is slated for completion in November, not including the technical training and operation assistance to follow. After this project, Sumitomo and NEC both hope to continue building other communications infrastructure projects in Myanmar, but declined to give any details in the statement.

Sumitomo did not respond to immediate requests for comment.