Thailand’s second largest mobile operator by subscribers DTAC is set to form a joint venture with state-run telco CAT Telecom to launch 3G mobile services using its existing 850MHz frequency band, currently used by a dwindling number of 1G AMPS analogue cellular users, reports the Bangkok Post. The plan mirrors that of GSM market leader AIS and CAT’s sister telco TOT, which are considering a partnership to launch 3G using AIS’s 900MHz spectrum. Both plans are designed to bypass the need for UMTS licences, which have been long-delayed by the regulator, the NTC. Previously, DTAC had outlined plans to set up a joint venture with CAT to apply for a Type 3 (infrastructure-based) 3G operating licence, to exist independently of the cellco’s current revenue-sharing Build-Transfer-Operate concession with CAT.
DTAC yesterday submitted a letter to the NTC asking for permission for the 850MHz frequency upgrade. Sigve Brekke, the chief executive of DTAC, said that ‘if we can upgrade the frequency that we currently have, we no longer need to wait for any 3G licences.’ As a precedent, Australian operator Telstra has launched a nationwide W-CDMA service over an upgraded 850MHz network. DTAC has only 50,000 customers on the 850MHz system compared to around 16 million on its 1800MHz GSM platform. Brekke added that DTAC had already held talks with CAT Telecom about the planned frequency upgrade and the size of the investment. ‘We are now in talks on furthering our 3G business plan,’ said the CEO, adding that his company still planned to apply for a 2100MHz W-CDMA licence via a joint venture with CAT once the NTC finally opens a tender.