State-owned Thai operator CAT Telecom says it will try to conclude a deal with Hong Kong’s Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL) to take full control of their joint venture Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia (HCWM) by the end of this year, reports the Bangkok Post. HCWM, a 75:25 joint venture between HTIL and CAT, markets CDMA2000-based mobile services in 25 central provinces of Thailand under the Hutch brand, whilst CAT CDMA is the government-run firm’s wholly owned CDMA2000 business operating across the rest of the country, which it is upgrading to 3G EV-DO. The two operations have failed to fully integrate their services on a nationwide basis or, alternatively, agree terms on a sale of the Hutch network, which is leased by BFKT, itself a fully owned unit of HTIL. CAT board director Krissada Kaweeyarn said CAT has set three options for the deal, the first of which was to require Hutch to upgrade its current CDMA2000 1x technology to 1xEV-DO and then let CAT buy it back. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database notes that Hutch has so far implemented only a small-scale pre-commercial EV-DO system in Bangkok, and parent HTIL has not revealed plans to expand the service, instead freezing all new investment and going as far as to remove HCWM from its second quarter 2009 report. The second option is for CAT to simply buy the network back from HTIL and upgrade it to EV-DO by itself, whilst the third option is to give Hutch the right to market the CDMA network across the entire country, the director said.
Krissada said that in his opinion the first or third options were most likely ‘because CAT only wanted to act as the network provider.’ However, he added that if Hutchison showed no interest in marketing the service, CAT would look for a new strategic partner to handle the marketing. Meanwhile, CAT senior vice-president Viroj Toocharoenvanich said CAT was submitting a new proposal to its board for the addition of 500 base stations worth THB3.8 billion (USD112 million) to the current CAT CDMA network of 1,600 cell sites in 51 provinces, after the board rejected an earlier proposal.