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Phones and Internet Usage

Phones and Internet Usage

  Telecommunications in Myanmar are several (large) steps behind most developed countries, and also lag behind neighboring Southeast Asian countries: generally, you will find that systems are antiquated and access is patchy and slow.

Phones and Internet Usage

Telecommunications in Myanmar are several (large) steps behind most developed countries, and also lag behind neighboring Southeast Asian countries: generally, you will find that systems are antiquated and access is patchy and slow. Only a small percentage of the population has access to a fixed telephone line, and Internet and mobile penetration are equally low. However, the situation on the ground is changing almost every month and infrastructure is gradually improving.

 

Mobile phones

 

International roaming with a number of western mobile networks is now possible in Myanmar; the situation is changing fast, so it is best to check with your operator. Some roaming services are becoming available with Asian networks, including Thailand (AIS), Singapore (M1 and Singtel), Indonesia (Telkomsel) and Vietnam (Viettel).

 

However, you may encounter a block on SMS text messaging even if you are able to make and receive calls.

 

The mobile phone industry and availability of SIM cards in Myanmar are in a state of flux. For many years, SIM cards were very expensive, but in April 2013 the price of a SIM card was reduced to K1,500 (US$1.70). However, these cards are currently only available to Myanmar citizens at normal outlets on a lottery basis.

 

It is possible, however, to rent a SIM card (and hand set) from vendors in the arrival halls at Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan airports. This costs $5 to $12 per day, depending on the rental period.

 

Some outlets will sell permanent SIM cards to foreigners, usually costing around K150,000 (you typically have to pay an additional fee to enable 3G mobile internet). Phones work on a top-up basis, with K5000 and K10,000 cards available. Cards can be bought at Yangon airport and numerous shops in downtown Yangon and Mandalay, and other larger towns and cities.

 

Micro SIM cards (for use in iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and other high-end smart phones) are not available in Myanmar, but most phone shops can professionally cut normal SIM cards to fit into a Micro SIM slot.

 

Although mobile Internet access can be patchy, mobile phones generally work well in towns – but less well in rural areas.

 

Internet

 

Given the lack of development in Myanmar, the availability of Internet access is surprisingly widespread: you can find an Internet café or hotel with Internet (often Wi-Fi) even in remote locations. However, Internet speeds can be extremely slow, especially in rural areas.

 

Prices at Internet cafes are usually around K500 per hour, although they may be higher outside cities. You can find free Wi-Fi at many restaurants and bars.

 

Due to bandwidth restrictions, Internet speeds can change markedly according to demand through the day. Speeds are often quickest in the early morning. If you use Gmail and you are working or spending an extended period of time in Myanmar, it is worth downloading Gmail Offline; this works much better than regular Gmail with slow connections, and also allows you to work offline.

 

Previous government Internet restrictions have now been lifted, so people are free to access most websites and services – including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and so on.

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