Viettel, one of Vietnam's three main telecommunications firms, had completed procedures to open a representative office in Myanmar, the Saigon Giai Phong newspaper said.

It did not say when the office would open nor what Viettel's long-term plans were in the impoverished country run by a military junta that shuns outside contact.

Viettel had also been in touch with Pyongyang about investing in North Korea and had plans to reach out to the authorities in Havana and Caracas, the newspaper said.

All three countries could pose interesting challenges for the fast-growing Vietnamese telecoms form, which has reported that gross profits last year doubled to 8 trillion dong ($471 million).

The North Korean leadership has in the past shown little interest in allowing its 23 million citizens access to any form of communication that may escape the prying eyes of its large internal spy network.

Nevertheless, Egypt's Orascom Telecom started up a mobile phone service in North Korea in December.

Last April, Cuba started a cellular phone service for the public for the first time, but the cost is prohibitive for most citizens of the communist country. Still, Spain's Telefonica said last month it was interested in Cuba.

Venezuela poses almost the opposite problem, with cell phone penetration of nearly 90 percent by the end of 2007, close to the highest in Latin America.

Viettel recently started operating in Cambodia. It said it had about 100,000 mobile subscribers there, and in neighbouring Laos it has about 50,000, the newspaper said.

By John Ruwitch - Reuters - January 15, 2009