Rangoon (Mizzima) – The main state telecoms provider has imposed a 66 per cent increase on calls costs from public booths to mobile phones, a rate on par with that charged by private providers, according to booth operators and an exchange official.
Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) raised the cost of calls from its booths to mobile phones in the same town, from 30 kyat (about three US cents) per minute to 50 kyat, on September 25. The rate matched the cost of services provided by the private sector, an MPT booth operator told Mizzima on Monday.
The new MPT rate is now the same as the cost of outgoing calls from its public phone booths to mobile phones in the other towns.
“In the past I had to pay 30 kyat per minute to the MPT, and charged customers 50 kyat per minute, so I made a profit of 20 kyat per minute,” the MPT phone booth employee said. “Now that the rate has increased … I charge customers 70 kyat.
The phone booth worker also revealed the corruption involved in obtaining work at the MPT booths.
“When a customer makes a call for just a minute and pays 100 kyat, I sometimes don’t have the small change it takes to give them their 30 kyat so there’ve been some problems. To get this job, I had to pay bribes to MPT officials,” she said.
The rate fluctuation went unreported in state media.
The call rate, from land lines to mobile phones (either in the same town or different towns) is 25 kyat per minute and private providers have been charging customers 50 kyats per minute.
The profitability of running MPT booths has meant jobs at such booths had become much in demand, an employee from Ahlone Township telephone exchange said.
“We receive a salary of 5,000 kyat, which is very low, so the MPT has turned a blind eye to us charging customers more than the calling rate it specifies,” the exchange officer said. “The job has become profitable and many people want to do this job, but they need to pay bribes to officials. The amount of the bribe depends on the township in which the phone booth is located.”
In townships in downtown Rangoon, anyone who wanted to work at the MPT booths had to pay about 400,000 kyat in bribes to secure a position, the employee said.
Burma’s mobile phone system (Analog AMPS 800) was introduced in 1993, followed by a GSM system in 2000. By the end of 2008, there were about 500,000 phone subscribers, less than one per cent of the total population.