In recent years, Myanmar has opened itself to the world, including tourism. It is a beautiful country with many things to see. More importantly, it is a “cheap” country (depending on where you are from, of course).
What you do not want to see, however, is an expensive roaming bill you will get from roaming with your provider. Telecom providers in Southeast Asia offer good packages for affordable local rates, which makes it interesting for seasoned travelers to get a Myanmar SIM card for their Myanmar exploration. In this article, I will explore all the SIM card options you have in Myanmar. Shall we?
Telecom Providers in Myanmar
Myanmar has 4 telecom providers: MPT, Telenor, Ooredoo, and Mytel. MPT has the largest market share with 22 million subscribers. Telenor has close to 20 million subscribers and is MPT’s main competitor. Ooredoo is doing well with almost 10 million subscribers, while Mytel is the smallest player in Myanmar with 6 million subscribers.
When Myanmar was still ruled by the military, the country was isolated from the rest of the world. Apparently, only the military and those who paid a bribe of more than 1000 USD could buy a SIM card. Travelers visiting Myanmar had their phones confiscated at the border too, which, luckily, is not the case anymore.
Back then, MPT, which is still a state-owned company, could charge whatever they wanted, making mobile communications expensive. In 2013, the government issued licenses for foreign companies to build networks, which were Ooredoo and Telenor. Later, Mytel joined the scene. As a result, MPT has to lower its prices to compete. The people of Myanmar did not forgive MPT for charging them 200 USD for a SIM card and joined the other networks. Until this day, however, MPT still has the most subscribers, but Telenor is catching up.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Myanmar? If you want to buy a SIM card in Myanmar, I would recommend going with MPT because they have the best coverage in the country. Otherwise, Telenor is another option with offering great service for slightly lower rates.
Do not get me wrong about MPT. Although locals may still not be a fan of MPT anymore, MPT has improved a lot in the past few years and even won Ookla’s fastest mobile network award in 2016. There is more to be said about MPT, but that will be done later.
4G/LTE can be found in the capital, Naypyidaw, and parts of Mandalay, Yangon, and other areas.
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, you do need to show your passport when buying your SIM card from resellers. You are only required to do this when buying your card in official stores. All package rates are subject to a 5% commercial tax. Ooredoo and Telenor list their prices with the tax included, while MPT does not. I am not sure what MyTel does.
Let’s see what these providers have to offer.
MPT was, as established in the introduction, the bad kid in Myanmar until it got competition. In 2013, SIM cards were sold for 200 USD. Now, because of the competition, you can buy a SIM card for 1.45 USD. As the company still wants to make profits, it changed its strategy when the other providers joined the market and has improved its service. MPT has a head start in terms of building their network, which is why they still have the best coverage in Myanmar (although Telenor is catching up quickly).
For 1500 MMK ($1.45), you can buy an MPT SIM card at Yangon International Airport and various stores throughout the country that comes with 500 MMK in credit. You will get a bonus of 1000 MMK if you top-up 1000 MKK within 7 days. Top-up vouchers are sold from 1000 MMK to 30000 MMK
4G/LTE can be found in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.
Various monthly MPT data packs are sold, which are listed below:
- 700 MMK for 400 MB
- 900 MMK for 900 MB
- 1500 MMK for 1.5 GB
- 2500 MMK for 2.5 GB
- 3500 MMK for 3.5 GB
- 7000 MMK for 7 GB
- 15000 MMK for 15 GB
- 25000 MMK for 25 GB
MPT also sells a tourist SIM card at Yangon International Airport for 10000 MMK, which gets you 1.5 GB and 5000 MMK credit to be used for 10 days. As you can see, this is a bad deal compared to their regular SIM cards and should be avoided.
Telenor, a Norwegian telecom provider, has been making things challenging for MPT. Telenor started to operate in Myanmar in 2014 and has been stealing customers from MPT (to be honest, all providers have been taking customers away from MPT). Right now, Telenor has the biggest 3G network in Myanmar. They planned on covering 80% of Myanmar by the end of 2019. Unfortunately, the coverage map on their website is a bit buggy, so I cannot tell whether they have achieved their objective. 75% of the population is covered by Telenor’s 4G/LTE network.
SIM cards can be sold at various places, including Yangon International Airport, for 1500 MMK and come with 500 MMK in credit. Top-up vouchers are sold from 1000 MMK to 10000 MMK, and you can get up to 120 MB for your first top-up of 100000 MMK.
Monthly data packs, 30 days, are sold that include roll-overs if you renew your plan. Below are Telenor’s data packs:
- 900 MMK for 565 MB
- 800 MKK for 700 MB
- 1000 MMK for 920 MB
- 1500 MMK for 1.5 GB
- 2500 MMK for 2.5 GB
- 4000 MMK for 4 GB
- 6000 MMK for 6 GB
- 15000 MMK for 15.5 GB
Tourist SIM cards are sold at Yangon International Airport, Mandalay Airport, and Nay Pyi Taw Airport. For 15000 MMK, you get 5 GB for 50 minutes to be used within 14 days. A much better deal than MPT’s tourist plan, but you can get 15.5 GB of data for 15000, which makes the tourist plan not that attractive either.
Ooredoo is a Kuwait– and Qatar-based company that launched its Myanmar network in 2014. They started before Telenor, but Telenor has surpassed them relatively quickly. Either way, Ooredoo is doing well with 10 million subscribers.
Ooredoo has no 2G network. For most travelers who want to use data, this is not a problem because 2G is too slow to do anything useful on the internet. However, locals mainly use their phones to call, so not having a 2G network and going straight for a 3G network proved to be problematic for Ooredoo. In short, providers do not need as many antennas to deliver 2G coverage compared to 3G. As a result, the roll-out of Ooredoo’s network was slow compared to if they started building a 2G network first.
By now, Ooredoo covers 85% of the population with its 3G network. 4G can be found in Mandalay, Yangon, and Naypyidaw.
Ooredoo sells monthly packages that have data roll-overs. A few of them are listed below.
- 700 MMK: 450 MB and 50 Facebook MB
- 1000 MMK: 900 MB and 124 Facebook MB
- 1500 MMK: 1 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 2000 MMK: 1.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 3000 MMK: 2.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 5000 MMK: 4.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 10000 MMK: 9 GB and 1 Facebook GB
MyTel is the smallest player in Vietnam. They have 2G and 4G/LTE networks, no 3G. MyTel covers 90% of the population. 4G/LTE can be found in all states and regions but primarily in Naypyitaw, East Bago, and Kayin.
MyTel uses two unusual frequencies, 900 MHz and 2100 MHz (bands 1 and 8). It is not relevant to know what that means. You do, however, have to check whether your phone supports those frequencies and bands, and supports VoLTE calls. Else, you will have to use the other providers who use much more common frequencies and bands.
MyTel SIM cards are sold for 1500 MMK in various stores. You get 500 MB and 50 on-net calls every month for 3 months upon activation. The following data packs can be added:
- 111 MMK: 111 MB for 24 hours
- 300 MMK: 300 MB for 24 hours
- 955 MMK: 1 GB for 7 days
- 866 MMK: 900 MB for 30 days
- 2888 MMK: 3 GB for 30 days
- 5000 MMK: 5 GB for 30 days
- 10000 MMK: 10 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Myanmar
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Myanmar
Getting a SIM card from MPT or Telenor would do you well when considering a Myanmar SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other Asian Countries
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