TODAY recently interviewed Philippe Luxcey, managing director of Apollo Towers Myanmar, about their projects, the future of Myanmar’s Telecom sector, difficulties encountered, and their CSR, as follows:
I am a Telecom Engineer. More than thirty years ago I joined France’s Orange, one of the world Top-Ten Operators. Then worked in its Marketing and Management also. In about 1995 even at Orange I shifted to Mobile division, launching a Mobile Operation in Tahiti. It was the first GSM Network in the Pacific region. Since 2003 I travelled as a VP to some 30 countries in Africa, Middle East and the Caribbean. I provided operational support to Technical, Marketing and IT works. Later I resigned from Orange and joined Apollo Towers. In Myanmar I’ve been working for Apollo since June 2014, as offered by the company’s shareholder and management.
Tower Operators in Myanmar
There are four foreign-owned Tower Operators here, like the Apollo, and some Myanmar-owned operators as well. They are in competition in services and price. Some are fitted with an electricity source.
Myanmar and Apollo Projects
Once there was MPT only. Usually operators tend to outsource the towers, so as to give more thought to tech, marketing and distribution. Myanmar thinks towers are, like real estate, objects of investment, and telecom operators are for hire. Our outfit’s advantage is we provide power for telecom operators. We use 48 Volt DC, of common international use like in China, France, US , etc.
Foreign telecom operator and tower
It’s convenient for telecom operators to purchase towers. It means projects are dispensed with, saving time, fast revenue. On purchasing towers, care is needed only to check whether they are running well, which parts to refresh, and how to maintain them.
Myanmar expanse and the number of towers needed
Myanmar needs at least 10,000-12,000 towers, I think. Oxford Business Group survey says the number is above 20,000. At present there are 4,000 – 5,000 private and MPT- owned towers. It is estimated Telenor alone will need about 8,000 Towers.
Requirements in erection of a tower
A patch of ground which is 2,000 – 3,000 sq ft, plus some more in our case because we answer for power supply as well. Height of a Tower depends on surroundings as well as the soil underneath. The tower height needs to be just so-so on a hill, or in the fields.
The future of Myanmar’s telecom sector
It’s hard to predict, so we’re just watching, Telenor’s market approach led to a successful launch. In marketing, network and price the MPT has slowly shifted. Ooredoo is not on a par with Telenor in quantity and distribution, but it might improve in technology and use 3G, or create a Mass Market. But, in the long term to stay No.1 and only one is not desirable. Competition is to Customer’s benefit. It is all the better if all competitors are No.1.
Difficulties encountered in Myanmar
Myanmar conditions resemble those in many African countries, in infrastructure, roads, electricity, etc. Here claims are often less than what they claim to be. Voltage is often unsteady, causing headaches to those in management of software development. Then there is no telecom ecosystem. Due to circumstances we were somewhat late and suffered logistic trouble in June-July 2014. In rural areas, when we start operating a generator in a blackout the villagers would come over and switch it off for its noisiness. But connection has to be on around the clock. So we now have electric batteries in readiness. In emergencies the generator is for daytime, the electric battery is for nighttime.
Experience in dealing with Myanmar personnel
This is a foreign company. Main contractor is a foreigner while sub contractor only is a Myanmar. So revenue is not going to Myanmars as much as expected. Directly dealing with a local is difficult to manage. Otherwise there’s missed communication, the need for checking against quality. However foreign contractor has constant funding. Tower service runs on credit system. Contractor has to incur expenses out of his own pocket first, and payment follows only after the project is found to be OK. This credit system persists in every country.
We made some donations to help the flood victims. During the disaster we had to work around the clock, getting First Aid, communication, etc. in place and in order. Then our mission could be seen as a public service, but not directly related to the public. We are duty-bound to give best service to each operators. Telecom sector with more users means operators are successful. Then, it is all the better for us, too.
Translated by Khin Aung (Eng)