CAT puts 3G plans on hold; TOT told to do same

18 May 2012

CAT Telecom has suspended its 3G mobile service expansion plan whilst state bodies including the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology (MICT) continue investigations into the legality of the state-owned firm’s wholesale/resale partnership contracts with private sector operator True Corp. CAT’s CEO Kitisak Sriprasert, quoted in a report by local newspaper The Nation, has assured mobile users that the True Move H-branded 3G services provided under the partnership by True’s subsidiary Real Move will be unaffected. However, a story from TelecomAsia, citing Thai language daily Thairath, contradicts this statement by quoting an anonymous member of CAT’s board of directors as saying that, following the MICT’s declaration of the CAT-True contracts as ‘illegal’ in March, CAT will end its cooperation with True Move H, preventing the latter from receiving import permission for new HSPA network equipment, although the cellco would be able to continue operating with existing equipment. The inside source added that CAT’s ‘My’ branded retail 3G service offered over the shared 850MHz network will be ‘cancelled’ in the face of the various legal objections.

CAT’s sister telco TOT has also hit big trouble in its 3G expansion plans. As reported by TelecomAsia, ICT minister Anudith Nakorntap has told the state-owned telco – Thailand’s sole holder of licensed 2100MHz spectrum – to cease its ‘failed’ 3G business plan, which has so far cost around THB16 billion (USD510 million) but resulted in just 200,000 HSPA-based network users since launching at the end of 2009. Anudith declared that fewer than half the planned 5,320 base stations have been rolled out to date, and pointed out that the 3G user base numbered less than one twelfth of the projected target of 2.5 million, while operational costs of the network exceeded revenue by a factor of four. TOT must now come up with a new business plan, working with the MICT, the State Enterprise Planning Office and the Finance Ministry.

Thailand, CAT Telecom, TOT, True Corp, True Move