Securing a licence in Myanmar will help the Indian telecom major expand presence in the sub-continent at a time when the company is seeing decline in profits and the home market is reeling under regulatory uncertainity.
Vodafone and China Mobile consortium, Telenor, SingTel are among others who have been shortlisted by Myanmar.
Myanmar's Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraph (MCPT) Thursday closed second round of the licence awards process and declared 12 pre-qualified bidders.
"The Telecommunications Operator Tender Evaluation and Selection Committee has announced that twelve (12) applicants have been pre-qualified to submit applications for two nationwide telecommunications licences in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar," MCPT said in a statement.
The Myanmar government issued invitation to the selected entities and consortium, including Airtel-led consortium, for the final tender. With approximately 1.3 million mobile subscribers in October 2012, tele-density in India's neighbour Myanmar was around 5 per cent.
The expression of interest floated by Myanmar for two telecom licences received application from 91 entities but only 12 applicants were shortlisted.
"The third and final stage of the licence award process will now start for the pre-qualified applicants. The pre-qualified applicants will be required to submit their applications to the Committee by June 3, 2013," the statement said.
This is the first time Myanmar is opening up its sector for private investments with aim to increase the overall tele-density of the country to 75 to 80 per cent in 2015-2016
At present, there are two functioning operators in Myanmar- MPT and Yatanarpon Teleport. MPT is a fully government-owned operator and Yatanarpon Teleport is a semi-government owned operator.
The winner of the Myanmar telecom licences will be declared on June 27 "based on the comparative evaluation method". The Committee expects to announce, by June 27, 2013, the two applicants that will be granted nationwide elecommunications licences, the official statement said.
SingTel, which holds over 31 per cent stake in Bharti Airtel, has teamed up with Myanmar's business conglomerate KBZ and Myanmar Telephone Company Limited (M-Tel). Malaysian telecom firm Axiata, which holds stake in Idea Cellular, has also qualified for the bids.
Africa's MTN Consortium, Bermuda's Digicel, France Telecom, Qatar Telecommunications, European firm Millicom International, Vietnam's Viettel Group and Japan's KDDI Corporation are also among pre-qualified entities declared by MCPT.
Meanwhile, the last two rounds of spectrum auction in India has seen muted response from the industry. None of the companies turned up for India's GSM spectrum auction in March.