NTC to reallocate 450MHz-510MHz, 790MHz-960MHz, 2.3GHz-2.6GHz bands; DTAC’s 850MHz 3G trial cleared by CAT

21 May 2009

Thailand’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has announced a ten-year wireless spectrum reallocation plan, reports The Nation. Under the scheme, the 470MHz-510MHz band has been allocated to provide trunk radio mobile (‘walkie-talkie’) services, while the 790MHz-960MHz range is designated for digital cellular voice and mobile broadband services. The plan also determines the use of the 2300MHz-2690MHz band for the provision of broadband wireless access (BWA) services, and proposes the use of the 450MHz-470MHz band to provide advanced wireless services in the future. According to the report, the plan must now be discussed with the transport ministry and then with other ministries and state agencies.

The regulator’s plan is likely to involve considerable compensation payments to certain operators. State-run telco TOT said it already utilised 80% of its available 2300MHz bandwidth to provide public telephony services in remote areas, which would cost around THB1 billion (USD30 million) to migrate to alternative frequencies, although it has plans itself to utilise the band for WiMAX-based BWA services. TOT also currently uses 470MHz frequencies to provide analogue cellular services, which the NTC’s spectrum committee suggested it move to another band. Fellow government-owned operator CAT Telecom said it had already invested around THB600 million in rolling out and marketing trunk radio services in the 800MHz band, and would therefore also require compensation for redeployment.

In related news, also reported by The Nation, Thailand’s second largest cellco by subscribers DTAC has received permission from the board of CAT Telecom for a plan to launch a six-month trial of 3G mobile services on its existing legacy 850MHz spectrum. CAT’s spokesman Pongsapat Pongcharoen said DTAC was permitted to launch the service on a non-commercial basis using up to 100 base stations, and CAT will soon request permission from the NTC for final clearance for the trial. DTAC expects to launch the pilot network next month, initially over 40 base stations, and will focus on providing mobile broadband services for laptop users. Mobile market leader AIS launched limited commercial 3G services on its existing 900MHz spectrum in May 2008, while True Move launched a non-commercial trial last month on 800MHz spectrum via an agreement with CAT. The three privately owned GSM mobile providers operate under build-transfer-operate (BTO) agreements with either CAT or TOT. True Move and DTAC hold BTO agreements with CAT, effective until 2013 and 2018 respectively, whereas AIS’s concession was issued by TOT and stands until 2015.