3G race heats up

24 Sep 2008

DTAC has raised its planned number of 3G base transceiver stations (BTSs) from 1,200 to 2,800, according to a source at the Thai cellco quoted by local newspaper The Nation. DTAC already has permission from the National Telecoms Commission (NTC) to roll out 1,200 UMTS BTSs, initially using its existing 850MHz frequencies in Bangkok, Chon Buri and Phuket at an estimated cost of THB5 billion (USD150 million), and CommsUpdate recently reported that its management foresaw a doubling of this budget. Its CEO Tore Johnsen has said one of three suppliers, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies, will be chosen as its main 3G equipment partner. Larger rival AIS, which launched a small-scale 3G service in Chiang Mai in May, recently increased the planned size of its UMTS-900 network from 400 BTSs to 1,900, at a total cost of around THB6 billion; AIS users in Bangkok are expecting commercial 3G services at the end of the year. The cellco is awaiting regulatory permission to deploy the additional 1,500 BTSs, and last week said it would not slow down its pace of 3G development despite TOT, its state concession owner, refusing its request to allocate it 5MHz in the 1900MHz spectrum to support its rollout. Meanwhile, Thailand’s third largest cellco by subscribers, True Move, plans to roll out at least 600 3G BTSs using 800MHz-850MHz spectrum, at a cost of over THB1 billion. 2GHz UMTS licences are expected to be awarded to the three private operators next year.