NEW DELHI--India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. has expressed interest in bidding for a license to offer telecommunications services in Myanmar, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said Wednesday.
"We have sent our expression of interest in acquiring a mobile phone services license to the Myanmar government," the executive, who asked not to be named, told The Wall Street Journal.
Separately, a Bharti Airtel spokesman said the company is "always open to opportunities, provided there is a strategic fit and the market offers significant potential."
If Bharti Airtel does get a license, Myanmar will be its third South Asian market outside of India. The company, India's largest telecommunication services provider by number of users, already has operations in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month, the Myanmar government said it is gauging the interest of telecommunications companies in getting nationwide licenses. The government plans to issue two permits by June, and had set Jan. 25 as the last date for receiving expressions of interest.
Myanmar's telecommunications sector is considered one of the most promising and potentially lucrative industries in the country.
Only 5.4 million out of Myanmar's 60 million people had a mobile-phone subscription as at the end of 2012, translating to a mobile penetration rate of 9%, according to official estimates. This compares with 70% in Cambodia, 87% in Laos and over 100% in Thailand, according to the International Telecommunication Union.
The Myanmar government wants to increase the percentage of the population owning a telephone to between 75% and 80% by 2015 to 2016. It expects to pass a new telecommunications law by June to liberalize the historically state-controlled sector.
Last week, Soe Thane, a minister in Myanmar president Thein Sein's office, said that a decision on the new licenses could come within a month.