Monday, March 17, 2008

Thailand - 3G

AIS, tot plan joint 3g broadband wireless

TOT's senior executive vice president for investment management Suthep Srisuwan said that according to its final calculations, the partnership could save TOT Bt18 billion over the next five years as the state agency would not have to spend heavily on rolling out the 3G network nationwide.

AIS and TOT would develop the 3G service on their 900MHz and 1,900MHz spectra respectively and roam the service between their two existing networks. TOT would tap metropolitan areas, while AIS would focus on the provincial market.

The collaboration is part of the memorandum of understanding they signed in January, involving their joint development of new fixed line-wireless services and network sharing.

As part of the understanding, TOT also permits AIS to lease its own network to continue providing the existing cellular service when its concession period expires in 2015.

The AIS network belongs to TOT, according to their build-transfer-operate agreement.

Somprasong Boonyachai, executive chairman of Shin Corp, the AIS parent company, said AIS would focus on the partnership with TOT and the immediate goal for AIS right now is to apply for new licences from the NTC.

The AIS concession allows it to talk with TOT in 2013 to decide whether AIS extends or amends the concession. AIS will talk with TOT on what to do with the company's customers when the concession ends and whether AIS would lease the TOT network to offer the service after the concession expires, Somprasong added.

"We've behaved nicely over the past 17 years. It would be surprising if TOT does not want to work with us," he said.

AIS, which has more than 24 million mobile-phone subscribers, paid a concession fee of Bt19.691 billion to TOT last year, increasing from Bt18.754 billion in 2006.

All cellular operators have been waiting for the NTC to issue licences to operate 3G broadband cellular bands, which will enable them to offer faster data-content services.

Due to legal complications, the NTC has yet to decide whether it will allocate 3G frequency licences or wait for the establishment of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission as the regulator to carry out the task.

One analyst said the potential cost savings from 3G licences were massive, given that the total 3G regulatory fee is expected to be 6.5 per cent, way below 25-per-cent concession fee of cellular operators.

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