Thailand’s True Corp has received the 900MHz technology-neutral mobile licence it won at auction last December, having submitted the necessary fee instalment and bank guarantees to the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Friday 11 March. Furthermore, the Bangkok Post reports that upon licensing True performed an about-face and announced that it will allow larger mobile rival Advanced Info Service (AIS) – which until now used the 900MHz spectrum to support 2G device users – to roam on 5MHz of its newly licensed 900MHz frequencies ‘free of charge’ for two and a half months. AIS had previously turned down True’s offer of roaming on a larger portion of bandwidth charged at THB450 million (USD12.7 million) per month for three months. True’s CEO Suphachai Chearavanont declared that AIS’ existing 2G 1800MHz roaming deal with its other main cellular rival DTAC was insufficient as it could not reach all coverage areas previously served by AIS’ GSM-900 network. ‘Allowing AIS to use our 900MHz spectrum network free for another two months is to ensure service continuity for 2G users,’ Mr Suphachai said, while clarifying that AIS will have to shoulder all costs incurred from operating the allocated roaming bandwidth block until the end of May when the offer expires. AIS must also reach a conclusion in discussions with state-owned telco TOT regarding potential charges payable to the latter as 2G 900MHz ‘network equipment fees’; TOT issued AIS’ original build-transfer-operate (BTO) 2G 900MHz concession which expired last September, and lays claim to 2G infrastructure deployed under the BTO framework.
Meanwhile, True says it plans to deploy 16,000 4G 900MHz base stations nationwide by May this year, covering 80% of the population, with the number of LTE-900 base stations expected to reach 20,000 by year’s end, covering 97% of the population, at a cost of THB36 billion.