I have already written about the easy availability of prepaid GSM phone cards in Myanmar in recent weeks. The prepaid phone cards were not available in Myanmar until a few weeks ago, although they are easily and cheaply available in other South East Asian countries. GSM subscriber lines in Myanmar are quite expensive and difficult to get one. Officially priced at around US$ 1,500, they are not only extremely expensive but also very difficult to get one with a long waiting list. Not surprisingly, the black market price for an official GSM SIM card is around US$ 3,000, twice the official price. As a result, GSM mobile phones are not for the ordinary Myanmar citizens.
Now comes the cheaper prepaid GSM mobile SIM cards. Priced at US$ 20 per card, and easily available through major supermarkets, stores and mobile phone shops, mobile phones have become the thing of the ordinary citizens of Myanmar. With US$ 20 per card, many people in Myanmar can now afford to a mobile phone.
But wait! Here comes the problem of the newly available prepaid SIM cards. The life of a prepaid SIM card is one month. Normally, this can be extended using a refill card. Unfortunately, the Myanmar Telecoms does not provide a way to refill the SIM card. That means after a month of usage, your SIM card is no longer usable, and you have to buy a new card, with a new phone number. That is really frustrating. Imagine you have to update your phone number to all your contact every month. And your contact will have to update their phone numbers once a month too. Everybody will be busy trying to update their current phone number to everyone. This is quite ridiculous!
However, for a foreign visitor to Myanmar, it is not a problem. At the end of one month, he will be out of Myanmar. But for average Myanmar citizens, this is a real problem. Unless the Myanmar Telecoms stars selling refill cards, the new prepaid SIM card will still be not fully usable.
A note about the rate of the prepaid SIM card: for out going call – US$ 0.30 per minute (yes, that is really expensive); for incoming call US$ 0.05 per minute (that is not so bad), and one SIM card cost US$ 20, with the life of one month from activation.