Myanmar awards telecom licences to Telenor and Ooredoo

Myanmar on Thursday awarded telecom licences to Norway's Telenor and Qatari firm Ooredoo, the government committee in charge of the bids said, opening up one of the world's last virtually untapped mobile phone markets.

The committee "is pleased to announce that Telenor Mobile Communications and Ooredoo have been selected as the two successful applicants", from the 11 global consortiums remaining on a shortlist, it said in the statement.

France's Telecom-Orange and Marubeni Corporation of Japan, will be back up options if either of the two successful firms fails to meet selection criteria, the selection committee added.

The winners of the bids, who will introduce mobile services to a nation where fewer than 10 percent of the people have access to a telephone, saw off fierce competition from major telecoms players including Singtel, Bharti Airtel and the Digicel group led by billionaire financier George Soros.

Telenor and Ooredoo, formerly known as Qatar Telecom, will have to adhere to requirements under the Telecommunications Law which will be considered by Myanmar's fledgling parliament this session, the committee added, without giving further details.

The bid process has been closely watched as a bellwether of economic reforms aimed at spurring rapid foreign investment in the former junta ruled nation.

Myanmar lags its neighbours in mobile coverage and is desperate to quickly narrow the gap with affordable coverage to help spur development.