May 12, 2017 5:00 am JST

Uber gets its show on the road in Myanmar

4G wireless service opens up new possibilities in land of unmetered taxis

YUICHI NITTA, Nikkei staff writer

Uber kicked off service in Yangon on Thursday.

YANGON -- Ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies began serving Myanmar's largest city Thursday, aided by the spread of 4G mobile communications technology.

The U.S. company will likely face stiff competition from local startups.

With Uber, the passenger specifies pickup and drop-off locations for the app to find a nearby registered driver. A clear price is set based on distance and time. Conventional taxis in Myanmar do not use meters, with driver and passenger generally negotiating a fare in advance.

Taxi drivers partnering with Uber will have their vehicles inspected, with such equipment as seat belts and air conditioners among the requirements. Service began with several hundred registered taxis, against Yangon's pool of roughly 70,000.

The company will accept cash and credit cards here, as it does in other Southeast Asian markets. Fares are around the same as for conventional taxis at present.

Smartphones have been spreading rapidly in Myanmar since 2014. Fourth-generation wireless communications services are expected to take off soon, creating a better environment for ride-hailing services.

Mike Brown, Uber's regional general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, told reporters Thursday that the company would offer transportation people could use anytime, anywhere and feel at ease with.

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