Thailand’s third largest cellco by subscribers True Move has announced that it is rebranding the recently acquired ‘Hutch’ mobile network as ‘True Move H’ and plans to launch 3G services based on W-CDMA/HSPA technology under the new brand this month. Suphachai Chearavanont, CEO of True Move’s parent group True Corp, said that the ‘H’ trademark – to be launched via subsidiary Real Move – stands for both ‘High speed’ and ‘Hutch’, the well-established brand of the existing CDMA2000-based network’s former owner, Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong. True Move is upgrading the CDMA network, covering 25 central provinces including Bangkok, to HSPA, under a recently signed wholesale-reseller contract between Real Move, another True unit Real Future, and state-owned CAT Telecom, Hutchison’s former joint venture partner and owner of the 850MHz spectrum band used by Hutch.
As reported by the Bangkok Post, Mr Suphachai said the introduction of True Move H on the 850MHz band would offer an alternative, advanced service for the existing 800,000 or so Hutch CDMA users. Customers wishing to stay with the provider will have two years in which to migrate to the HSPA network, and can retain their old mobile numbers. However, they will need to buy new handsets which the company plans to offer at ‘affordable prices’ in a special campaign. The True-CAT contract says True must serve CDMA customers for two years before shifting to the HSPA platform. ‘Our HSPA network is expected to accommodate up to one million subscribers within the first year of operations,’ Mr Suphachai said, adding that the network would have a capacity for 100,000 mobile phone numbers at the first stage.
True Move has set aside THB9 billion (USD295 million) for network expansion this year, including THB5 billion for building 1,200 2G base stations and the remaining THB4 billion for building a HSPA-based network with capacity to accommodate one million 3G subscribers. True Corp also plans to spend THB3 billion on broadband network expansion and THB1 billion on its cable TV network. Under its agreement with CAT, the domestically-owned quadruple-play operator has committed total investment of THB13 billion to build 4,500 3G base stations over the next three years, with capacity to serve four million users. True Corp is expected to decide in the second quarter of this year how to raise funds to finance its planned investments, and is considering several options including loans, a share issue and seeking a strategic partner.
Separately from Real Move’s ‘H’ project in 25 central provinces, True Move aims to focus on providing 2G services nationwide whilst continuing its existing 3G HSPA wireless broadband trials on up to 600 base stations until its original build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession officially expires in 2013. The company could then shift all its customers to Real Move, which has sealed a 14-year agreement with CAT.