Gaming Market Insights Series #7: East Timor — Crouching Tiger of Southeast Asia

20 years ago, almost none heard about Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. The uprising of Timor-Leste back in 2002 set of the establishment of the youngest country in Southeast Asia region — East Timor. Despite numerous challenges, East Timor is struggling to set its own footprint in the world’s economy.

Chart: East Timor GDP annual growth rate

Source: Trading| National Directorate Timor

After 15 years of independence, East Timor has been enjoying positive growth albeit at a slower rate recently thanks to flourishing public and private sector investment. The economy is heavily relying on oil export and extraction. Other industries of the economy such as consumers’ goods and telecommunications are still heavily dominated by foreign players.

Telecommunication infrastructure — the backbone of the economy

Table: Timor-Leste Internet Users


Timor-Leste has only a 1.2 % penetration rate of internet and ranked as the second-least connected country in the whole world. However the country’s telecommunications sector has been recently expanding thanks to stable surge in mobile phone sector. By 2015 the country’s mobile subscriber base has increased rapidly within a short period of time and the penetration quickly surpassed 100%. The emergence of three operators Telemor, Telkomcel and Timor telecom have boosted East Timor telecom infrastructure in an unprecedented fashion. The state and private companies are now striving to integrate more service offers on top of phone call, 3G internet and landline phone to improve the mobile-based infrastructure in the country.

Immature mobile payment

Nearly 60 percent of Timor-Leste’s population have no bank accounts and have limited options for savings, Against this context, BNU Mobile was introduced back in 2014 as an emerging option. BNU Mobile users can make payments, transfer money, do mobile top-up, withdraw cash and shop merchandises through a mobile wallet linked to their bank account. The mobile wallet allows them to retrieve account information and facilitate transactions with their phone anytime, anywhere. Also users can also send money to unbanked customers with a Timor Telecom phone number. However its service is now only available in four districts: Dili, Baucau, Ermera and Lautem. The company is working on a rigorous business expansion in the near future. BNU Mobile is also the key mobile payment player in the current immature mobile-based market of East Timor to date.

Future Outlook

Stringent policies, underdeveloped economy and infrastructure do not seem to impede foreign countries and companies in penetrating in this emerging country. The large under-banked population in East-Timor has magnetized a number of foreign Fintech, mobile payment and also blockchain and cryptocurrency companies. Despite slow movement, the mobile-based economy including mobile payment, cryptocurrency payment and other mobile-based entertainment, gaming and lottery services has been increasingly zoomed in under the radar of foreign companies who devour new, underdeveloped and populated markets like East-Timor.

The report is prepared by CARDANO Labo — the leading blockchain research and development startup focusing on blockchain-empowered gaming and entertainment services. We are keen on bringing this technology to a broader audience where people will have better access and opportunities to enjoy their lives through unprecedented technical solutions.

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English Nicole Nguyen (
Japanese Muuto Morikawa(

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