Thai telco TOT will pay THB1 billion (USD32 million) to piggyback on Advanced Info Service’s (AIS’) 3G mobile network until 2015, the state-run operator’s president Anont Tubtiang has announced. TOT operates a 2100MHz HSPA-based network in the Bangkok area which it is working towards expanding nationwide, but plans to augment 3G coverage in the meantime by utilising 1,600 base stations of AIS, which has been rolling out 900MHz 3G services in lieu of an anticipated 2100MHz auction in the second half of 2012. In 2015 AIS’ build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession with TOT will expire, and with it the private operator’s rights to the 900MHz network, while AIS intends to continue operating 3G services under a full 2100MHz licence. As quoted by local newspaper The Nation, Tubtiang said that TOT aimed to roll out 3,000 3G base stations in eighteen provinces by February 2011, and 5,320 cell sites by May, up from a current total of 1,145, including 789 on its own sites, 201 on sister telco CAT Telecom’s and 155 on greenfield sites.
TOT will sign new contracts with 3G mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) by May 2012, Tubtiang added, while the five existing MVNOs on its 3G network – Samart i-Mobile, Loxley, IEC, M Consultant and 365 Communications – will have to re-apply to continue operations. TOT said it is targeting a 3G subscriber base of more than one million by the end of 2012, up from approximately 300,000 currently, of which around 80,000 subscribe to TOT and the remainder indirectly via MVNOs.