Thai state-owned telco CAT Telecom has signed a preliminary agreement with South Korea’s SK Telecom to explore the possibility of forming a mobile partnership which could include bidding for telecoms licences in Thailand and developing a network provision service in the future, reports The Nation quoting CAT’s president Kitisak Sriprasert.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that revenue-sharing income from build-transfer-operate (BTO) concessions has kept the state-owned business profitable to date, but under law CAT must transfer all its BTO revenues to the government from December 2013 onwards, forcing it to rethink its strategies. CAT is lobbying to launch 4G services over a currently unused 2×25MHz block of 1800MHz spectrum allocated to cellco DTAC under its BTO concession with CAT which expires in 2018. CAT granted 2×50MHz in the 1800MHz band to DTAC, which has so far only utilised half of it. DTAC has entered negotiations with CAT on the possibility of launching a 4G 1800MHz joint venture under a wholesale/resale business model similar to an existing 850MHz 3G agreement between rival True Corp and CAT. Alternatively, DTAC has indicated its willingness to return the unused bandwidth early for auction by the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) alongside the 1800MHz blocks previously allocated to True Move (part of True Corp) and DPC (part of AIS) under their 2G BTO concessions with CAT which expired in September 2013, in a process to begin after a one-year 2G operating extension ends in September 2014. However, CAT opposes the NBTC’s auction plans, and says it is prepared to fight the issue in court, while the state enterprise is also in arbitration with its BTO concessionaires over the rights to infrastructure including wireless towers used under the expired BTO contracts. Mr Kitisak added that CAT’s talks with DTAC on the potential 4G 1800MHz joint venture are at a preliminary stage, while CAT would need approval from both the Ministry of ICT and the NBTC for any plan to utilise the bandwidth in question.