Up and ATOM: Telenor Myanmar rebrands and pledges 5G investment

Up and ATOM: Telenor Myanmar rebrands and pledges 5G investment

It’s been a big week for the operator formerly known as Telenor Myanmar.

In March, Telenor finalised its sale of the unit to M1 Group for US$105 million, and its new owner has now opted to drop the previous owner’s name in favour of rebranding as ATOM (Advancing Telecommunications of Myanmar) as part of the “post-transaction situation.”

Following this announcement, the operator issued a statement assuring its customers that it would continue supplying the same product and service offering under its new name. Days later, ATOM pledged to invest more than US$330 million into its network across the next three years, and stated its goal of launching the country’s first 5G service.

ATOM claimed that this investment would lead to job creation by developing home-grown talent in the industry, with MMK3 billion (US$1.6 million) to be spent on humanitarian initiatives delivering aid, education and healthcare to remote communities between now and 2024.

ATOM plans to deploy 5G-ready digital infrastructure imminently, with COO Ahmad Abdallah saying that “Myanmar should not have to wait too long to experience and enjoy the benefits of 5G.” CEO Ziaullah Siddiqui promised a 5G launch “in the near future”, and added that the operator would “supercharge Myanmar’s digital transformation” with secure digital services.

Despite the promise of secure services, ATOM’s continued operation in Myanmar will obliged it to comply with the military junta’s surveillance mandate implemented in June 2021. Under this order, operators in Myanmar must install intercept technology to enable the junta to monitor calls, messages and web traffic. The junta seized power in a coup in February 2021, and almost immediately began imposing internet restrictions including service blackouts.

Telenor cited its refusal to comply with this directive as the key factor that made continuing its operations in Myanmar untenable, although the unit also registered an impairment loss of NOK6.5 billion ($686.5 million) in Q1 2021. This drove Telenor to seek a buyer for its unit, although the Norwegian firm claimed that it the political instability made it effectively impossible to “conduct an ordinary sales process”. Eventually it reached an agreement with M1 Group, and the companies have a six-month transition agreement in place. M1’s affiliate Investcom now controls ATOM.

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