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Telenor partners with Opera in Myanmar to help relieve bandwidth overload

As demand for bandwidth increase, carriers in Myanmar are looking toward third-party solutions such as Opera to help relieve traffic congestion.

Michael Tan
With his grandpa building a tapioca processing plant from scratch, and his dad an engineer, Michael just can't escape his genetic predisposition for tech. Besides being a trained lawyer, Michael runs his own tech distributorship and enjoys flying his fleet of quad-copters in his spare time.
Michael Tan
2 min read

Opera has updated and optimized their support for the special Myanmar fonts. Opera

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. With one million SIM cards being sold per month in Myanmar, 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.

The technology essentially reduces data usage, which saves mobile data costs for the users (currently at 0.66 to 1 cent per MB in Myanmar) and reducing network load for the telco. The catch is that interactive pages that use device-side processing like Javascript do not work well, but many larger websites including Facebook, Wikipedia and Google have special portals, which work well with Opera Mini.

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.