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Laos - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

  • June 2015
  • -
  • Paul Budde Communication Pty Ltd
  • -
  • 37 pages

Mobile market in Laos still struggling to find right direction

The telecom sector in Laos still has numerous issues to address. The rate of regulatory reform continues to be well behind wider industry development, even for a developing economy like Laos. The delays in reform have the potential to derail the good progress already made if the process is not speeded up.

The mobile sector in particular has been going through a difficult period. Following the Beeline saga back in 2011/2012, the fallout was still being felt into 2015. A cloud of uncertainty seems to be hanging over the whole market. Subscriber growth is weak after the market had gone backwards for a while. The cellcos are now operating in an environment where the regulator is keeping a tight hold on pricing and competition is in effect discouraged. A further problem emerging for the mobile operators is that network performance is deteriorating across the board. This in turn highlighted two important issues there has been insufficient investment by the operators in the areas of network maintenance and upgrades, and, secondly, there are obvious deficiencies in the regulatory environment in how the authorities apply and manage network performance standards. It is understood that the MPT had started to address the latter problem in 2015.

The country's accession to the WTO was finalised in early 2013. As a consequence Laos is now required to implement its post-WTO accession agenda. Of critical importance for the country's telecom sector, the WTO Reference Paper on telecommunications among other things calls for the setting up an independent telecom regulator. Indeed, this was required to be put in place two years after accession (ie by February 2015). By June 2015 this had not been achieved. It was understood that work was proceeding on the matter.

Internet services in Laos continue to lag. This remains a major concern in terms of the overall social and economic development of the country. The good news is that since 2011/2012 there has been a boom in mobile broadband internet services (although it has been hard to get reliable statistics on this part of the market). The expansion of internet and especially broadband into the provinces and the rural areas is high on the government's list of development priorities.

On a positive note, the Lao economy continues to perform well and the IMF has forecast further strong growth, at least in the short term. In the last five or six years there certainly has been a noticeable shift in the economic and social outlook for Laos. After a number of decades of having to struggle with a poorly performing economy and a commercial environment that was in desperate need of reform, there is now positive news being reported on many fronts for this nation of almost seven million people. Most importantly, a significant number of hydro-electric power projects and mining ventures have become reality, with even more possible projects in the pipeline. Laos is finally moving forward in what might be described as a confident fashion.

Key developments:
The mobile market in Laos continues to be in disarray four years after the so-called Beeline crisis;
The growth in mobile subscribers has stalled as the regulator maintains a strict policy on pricing;
Mobile penetration had fallen back to 63% coming into 2015, this being below the 65% penetration reported four years earlier;
A further setback for the mobile sector has been the recent decline in network performance, a problem being felt across all the mobile networks;
Despite the difficulties in the mobile sector, mobile broadband continues to expand at a rapid rate;
The MPT implemented compulsory SIM registration for prepaid mobile services in 2014;
The government was moving forward to implement new internet laws/decrees which were attracting some criticism internationally;
The MPT/LANIC was preparing to implement the government's proposed single internet gateway policy, which will require all operators to use the government-managed facility;
The country is on track to launch its first satellite, LaoSat-1, by December 2015.

Companies mentioned in this report:
Lao Telecom (LTC), Thaicom, ETL, Unitel, Lao Asia Telecom, Star Telecom, Viettel, Beeline, Tango, Tigo, Millicom, Vimpelcom, Planet Online, Sky Telecom, China-APMT.

Table Of Contents

Laos - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband
1. Executive summary
2. Key statistics
3. Country overview
4. Economy
4.1 WTO accession
5. Telecommunications market
5.1 Overview of telecom market in Laos
5.2 Beeline saga and the aftermath
6. Regulatory environment
6.1 Overview
6.2 Background
6.2.1 Telecommunications Act 2001
6.2.2 National Authority for Post and Telecommunications (NAPT)
6.3 Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT)
6.4 Telecommunications Law No. 2 (2012)
6.5 Regulatory developments
7. Telecommunications infrastructure
7.1 National telecom network
7.1.1 Overview
7.1.2 Fixed-line statistics
7.1.3 Forecasts fixed-line market - 2015; 2020
7.1.4 Optical fibre network
7.2 International infrastructure
7.2.1 Terrestrial cable links
7.2.2 Early proposal for a satellite system
7.2.3 LaoSat-1 project
8. Internet
8.1 Overview
8.2 Internet statistics
8.3 Forecasts internet services - 2015; 2020
8.3.1 Notes on scenario forecasts
8.4 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony
8.5 Regulatory issues
8.5.1 Internet laws and decrees
8.5.2 Single gateway policy
8.6 Top level domain name
9. Internet Service Providers
10. Broadband market
10.1 Overview
10.2 Broadband services
10.2.1 DSL
10.2.2 Satellite
10.2.3 WiMAX
10.2.4 Mobile broadband
10.2.5 Optical fibre
10.3 Broadband statistics
11. Mobile communications
11.1 Overview
11.2 Background
11.3 Mobile statistics
11.4 Forecasts mobile services - 2015; 2020
11.5 Third Generation (3G) mobile services
11.6 Long Term Evolution (LTE) / 4G services
12. Major telecom operators
12.1 Lao Telecom
12.1.1 Overview
12.1.2 Corporate structure
12.1.3 Fixed-line operations
12.1.4 Mobile operations
12.2 Enterprise of Telecommunications Lao (ETL)
12.2.1 Overview
12.2.2 Fixed-line operations
12.2.3 Mobile operations
12.3 Beeline
12.3.1 Overview
12.3.2 Background
12.3.3 Mobile operations
12.4 Unitel (formerly Lao Asia Telecom)
12.5 Sky Telecom
13. Broadcasting market
13.1 Overview
13.2 Digital TV
14. Related reports
Table 1 Country statistics Laos 2015
Table 2 Telephone network statistics 2014
Table 3 Internet user statistics 2014
Table 4 Mobile statistics 2014
Table 5 National telecommunications authority
Table 6 Laos' GDP real growth rate 2006 - 2016
Table 7 Historical - Fixed-line subscribers 1995 - 2005
Table 8 Fixed-line subscribers 2006 - 2015
Table 9 WLL (fixed) subscribers 2004 - 2014
Table 10 Forecast fixed line subscribers and penetration rates 2015; 2020
Table 11 Fibre network by installed route length 2010 2014
Table 12 Fibre network by operator 2012; 2014
Table 13 Internet users 1998 - 2015
Table 14 Fixed internet subscribers 1999 - 2014
Table 15 Households with internet connection 2005 - 2014
Table 16 Internet bandwidth capacity 2002 - 2014
Table 17 Forecast fixed internet subscribers 2015; 2020
Table 18 Fixed broadband subscribers 2003 2014
Table 19 Overview of broadband/household subscribers 2014
Table 20 Fixed broadband subscribers by access type 2010; 2014
Table 21 Total broadband subscribers 2010 2014
Table 22 DSL subscribers 2007 - 2014
Table 23 Active mobile-broadband subscribers 2010 - 2014
Table 24 3G mobile dongle (HSPA) subscribers 2010 - 2014
Table 25 Historical - mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration 1995 - 2005
Table 26 Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration 2006 - 2015
Table 27 Mobile operators, subscribers and annual change 2014
Table 28 Mobile subscribers and market share by operator 2014
Table 29 Mobile services sector estimated ARPU 1998 - 2014
Table 30 Forecast mobile subscribers 2015; 2020
Table 31 3G mobile subscribers 2012 - 2014
Table 32 Historical - LTC's mobile subscribers and annual change 1995 - 2003
Table 33 LTC's mobile subscribers and annual change 2004 - 2014
Table 34 ETL's mobile subscribers 2003 - 2014
Table 35 Beeline's mobile subscribers 2005 - 2015
Table 36 Beeline's mobile ARPU 2011 - 2014
Table 37 Beeline's annual churn 2011 - 2014
Table 38 Unitel's mobile subscribers 2005 - 2014
Table 39 Key broadcasting statistics 2014
Chart 1 - Fixed lines in service - 2006 - 2015
Chart 2 - Internet users - 2005 - 2015
Chart 3 - Fixed internet subscribers 2005 - 2014
Chart 4 - Fixed broadband subscribers - 2008 2014
Chart 5 - Active mobile-broadband subscribers - 2010 2014
Chart 6 - Mobile subscribers and annual change - 2006 - 2015
Chart 7 - Mobile subscribers and market share by operator 2014

Companies Mentioned Lao Telecom (LTC), Thaicom, ETL, Unitel, Lao Asia Telecom, Star Telecom, Viettel, Beeline, Tango, Tigo, Millicom, Vimpelcom, Planet Online, Sky Telecom, China-APMT.

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