DTAC updates 3G, 4G plans; reveals network sharing intentions

17 Feb 2014

Thailand’s second largest cellco by users DTAC has given an update on its plans for 3G network expansion, saying that it will add an additional 5,500 2100MHz base stations by June 2014, bringing the total to 11,000 stations and covering 80% of the population with 3G 2100MHz services. The rollout augments its 5,200 3G base stations using the 850MHz band. As quoted by the Bangkok Post, DTAC says it expects its number of 3G subscribers to reach 25 million this year, or roughly 70% of total subscribers, up from the current ‘14 million’ (having reported twelve million at end-2012), while it aims for ‘all customers’ to use 3G services by the end of 2015. Meanwhile, the operator also confirmed previous reports that it is gearing up for a 4G LTE launch, planned for the second quarter of this year with an initial 300 base stations. Furthermore, another Thai newspaper, The Nation, quotes DTAC’s CEO Jon Eddy Abdullah as saying that the company will spend around THB300 million (USD9.3 million) to set up the initial 300 LTE 2100MHz base stations in Bangkok, but only as a temporary measure before obtaining permission for LTE services in the 1800MHz band. The regulator, the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), is expected to hold an auction this year for 1800MHz LTE-suitable spectrum (and potentially 900MHz simultaneously), pending a final decision. Abdullah said DTAC needs at least 10MHz bandwidth in the 1800MHz band to launch a full 4G service, and is also interested in gaining 900MHz spectrum.

In other DTAC news, Reuters reports that the firm is in talks to share networks with rivals to save costs, including discussions with market leader Advanced Info Service (AIS) and third largest player True Corp. No deal has been reached yet, Jon Eddy Abdullah told reporters, and he did not give a timeframe on when the negotiations would be concluded. Analysts have speculated that a network sharing deal with True Corp would involve renting capacity from the latter’s infrastructure fund launched last December.