On August 4, I purchased an Ooredoo SIM card, and I felt like I was a part ofMyanmar history – well, almost.
My first visit to Myanmar in 2004 offered the most rudimentary access to internet. Internet cafes proved to be a waste of time given that I was unable to access email or very few international media sources. Times have indeed changed.
After waiting in line with about 50 people, combined with K6,000 in cab fare for my back and forth trips, my SIM card doesn’t really work.
The purchasing experience was quite pleasant. I was impressed by the professional and thoughtful efforts of the staff, and minus one super excited guy attempting to push his way through the line, it was a calm and seamless process.
When returning to the Ooredoo store to check the problem with my SIM card, I was told service might be spotty due to current capacity issues and service potentially not being available in my neighbourhood.
The manager explained I would likely be able to call other Ooredoo customers, but could experience difficulty in calling MPT customers. The reality is it has been difficult to connect to any phone number whether Ooredoo, MPT or a landline, which is compounded by spotty and slow internet. The connecting issues are not solely my own experience. I have spoken with many others experiencing the same limitations.
According to an official statement from Ooredoo, as the company is preparing for its commercial launch on August 15, “Customers are invited to experience crystal clear voice calls and fast internet services for free from August 2 to midnight August 14, 2014.”
The special kick-off promotion, announced at a press conference on August 2, gives users 900 free minutes and SMS for on-net calls, 90 free minutes and SMS for off-net calls, and 20MB free daily internet usage until midnight on August 14.
To say the least these issues are a problem given that the company is running this special kick-off promotion. But why offer such an amazing promotion to consumers if you are unable to deliver the product?
It brings up the larger question – will the network be ready on August 15, the day of Ooredoo’s proposed commercial launch? We will have to wait and see, but I am rooting for Ooredoo.
We must also question if Ooredoo SIM cards will work in the wide range of mobile devices currently in use throughout Myanmar. On August 4, Ooredoo published a list of mobile devices that work with their SIMs. While it might not be an all-inclusive list, it does send a signal of a potential limitation.
Having to purchase a new mobile device could set the average Myanmar citizen back K100,000 ($100), which in a country where the average monthly salary is approximately the same as a new phone – or at least a hefty chunk of it – may be a barrier to consumption of the company’s services. If we want the country to experience the full benefit of a telecoms revolution, which includes participation of all social classes, access to inexpensive mobile devices are essential.
We know there are bound to be bumps in the road as telecom services are introduced and expanded throughout Myanmar; however, transparency on behalf of Ooredoo (and Telenor once they launch) should be a top priority. The people of Myanmar have for far too long come to expect poor customer service, inaccurate information and disappointments. With economic liberalisation, and the telecoms revolution within their grasp, don’t they deserve something a bit better in terms of service and transparency?
Truly, no one is expecting a seamless process, but if exceptional service is a process – just say so.
It’s not enough for a foreign company to come into the country and operate, but they must not only work to win the minds, but also the hearts, of the people. That starts with transparency and communication with the consumer – giving them something they have probably never before experienced.
Even though my Ooredoo SIM card at best offers spotty service to date, I still feel I am an active participant in the telecoms revolution. And on that note, I can hardly wait to see what will transpire over the coming weeks, months, years and decades.
Truly, congratulations to Ooredoo in their launch.
Note: Several attempts were made to reach out to Ooredoo for comment. At the time of publishing no response was available.
Aundrea Montaño is deputy editor at Myanmar Business Today.