Thai cellcos reveal investment plans, usher in new interconnect scheme

2 Feb 2007

Thailand’s second largest mobile operator DTAC has announced a plan to invest around THB30 billion (USD865 million) in its GSM network over the next three years. Part of the budget is earmarked for the rollout of an additional 3,000 base stations in provincial areas, to take its total number of cell sites to around 10,000; an additional tranche is reserved for 3G development, contingent on it receiving an UMTS licence. DTAC also said it will expand its EDGE data coverage to its entire GSM footprint by the end of May. DTAC’s larger rival AIS plans to spend THB18 billion this year alone on network expansion, and it announced yesterday the launch of a 2.5G mobile TV content service, which it expects to have one million users within twelve months. Also this week, the country’s third largest operator True Move announced that it will invest around THB12 billion this year, mostly in network expansion. True Move CEO Supachai Chearavanont said that parent True Corp’s 2007 investment would focus on new businesses, including international voice services. True is waiting for regulator the NTC to approve its international gateway licence.

In related news, DTAC, AIS and True Move yesterday began bilaterally billing one another for interconnection charges, in accordance with a policy introduced by the NTC last April. Simultaneously, DTAC launched what it claims is the first post-paid tariff package based on ‘real call traffic’. The second-ranked player’s move puts further pressure on fixed line incumbent TOT to end the network access charge system, under which the state telco earns up to THB14 billion annually from DTAC and True Move. Court actions are ongoing concerning the two cellcos’ unwillingness to continue paying TOT the access charges.