Thailand’s second largest mobile operator Digital Total Access Communication (DTAC), a subsidiary of Norway’s Telenor group, has reached an agreement with larger rival Advanced Info Service (AIS, part of the Singtel group) to share infrastructure in a bid to cut costs while expanding network coverage and capacity to keep pace with mobile broadband demand. The new venture aims to share 2,000 wireless towers this year, the companies stated, while no financial details were given. As reported by Reuters, the AIS-DTAC network sharing tie-up is seen as the first direct deal of its kind between Thailand’s private sector cellcos, although TeleGeography notes that in October 2014 DTAC signed a three-year network sharing deal with True Telecommunications Growth Infrastructure Fund (TRUEGIF), established by third-placed wireless operator True Corp, whilst there are long-established public-private sector network sharing arrangements involving state-backed TOT and CAT Telecom.
DTAC also confirmed that it has reached an agreement with state-owned CAT Telecom to set up joint ventures (JVs) to manage shared telecoms towers and fibre-optic infrastructure. As reported by CommsUpdate yesterday, Tower JV Co and Fibre JV Co will both be 51% owned by DTAC and 49% by CAT, which issued DTAC’s original build-transfer-operate (BTO) 2G mobile operating concession running until 2018. A total of 15 ongoing arbitration disputes between CAT and DTAC (on issues including BTO network asset ownership) will reportedly be ended to facilitate the network sharing partnership. The private sector cellco will reportedly be required to inject around THB6.6 billion (USD186 million) in return for its stakes in the tower/fibre JVs, which will include around 8,000 towers currently under arbitration, roughly valued at a reported THB13 billion. DTAC owns outright another approximately 4,000 towers under its own 3G/4G operating licence, but is under intense pressure to resume expansion of its 3G/4G infrastructure to meet mobile broadband demand and keep pace with rivals AIS and True, after having its rollout programme blocked by court orders related to the network ownership disputes with CAT.