With a 10 percent mobile penetration rate two years ago, Myanmar had the notoriety of being one of the world's least connected nations. But when a reformist government took over the reins of the country two years ago, it rapidly opened it up and placed a special emphasis on getting world class telecommunications companies to build the networks the country needed to catch up with its neighbours, and reach an 80 percent mobile penetration rate by 2016.
So far, things are working out pretty well and the launch of new telcos in Myanmar in August 2014 saw rapid growth., bandwidth requirements have so far surpassed what the carriers have expected.
Despite already having rapid infrastructure building plans in place, carriers are being forced to deploy network resources more aggressively. Both new Myanmar telcos, Ooredoo and Telenor, are facing severe bandwidth saturation during peak usage hours, and Telenor even had to delay its launch in Myanmar's biggest city by a few weeks just to deploy more network resources.
In the meantime, Telenor is drawing on Opera's technological prowess to reduce the bandwidth crunch by offering the Opera Mini browser to its users with their phones.
Opera Mini technology optimizes and compresses Web pages requested by users in their own servers before sending them to the users' mobile devices, making for a faster and smoother mobile Internet experience.
Telenor Myanmar has signed on to the Facebook Zero and Wikipedia Zero initiatives, allowing Telenor users to have unlimited free access to these sites. While subscribers of other mobile networks like Ooredoo and MPT can use Opera Mini's compression technology, they may not be able to access Facebook Zero and Wikipedia Zero for free.
Specially for Myanmar, Opera has updated and optimized their support for the special Myanmar fonts -- both in Unicode and a proprietary format called Zawgyi -- for even greater data savings. Initial tests done by Opera and Telenor exhibit an average of two times faster page loads, and around 80 percent data savings while browsing popular sites frequented by Myanmar subscribers.
While Opera Mini technology itself is not new, boosting awareness of this technology in newly opened Myanmar would do a lot to improve users' mobile Internet experience, save costs and most importantly, make it possible for very slow 2G rural connections to access major websites with acceptable speeds.