True must start GSM migration in earnest now one-year clock ticking

16 Sep 2013

The build-transfer-operate (BTO) mobile concessions of True Corp’s 2G division True Move and AIS’s 1800MHz frequency-owning unit Digital Phone Co expired yesterday (15 September 2013), freeing up the 1800MHz spectrum utilised by each for GSM services (under BTO agreements with state-owned CAT Telecom) for reallocation under technology-neutral – including 4G – licences in a year’s time. To ensure continuity of GSM services, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) agreed last month to permit True Move, DPC and CAT to continue serving 1800MHz 2G users for one year after the concessions end. For True, this is a major undertaking as it has approximately 17 million customers remaining on its True Move network (over 18 million reported at end-June) which it aims to migrate to its ‘True Move H’ 3G/4G network. For AIS it is a relatively minor operation, with only roughly 70,000 remaining 1800MHz 2G users; a more significant challenge for AIS is to migrate its 900MHz 2G users (over 33 million at end-June), which are served via a BTO contract with CAT’s sister telco TOT expiring in March 2015.