AIS may scrap pact with TOT if CAT deal goes ahead

Construction News

Advanced Info Service is threatening to scrap its third generation (3G) network cooperation deal with TOT Plc if its concession owner strikes a roaming agreement with CAT Telecom.

The threat could affect the state telecom enterprise’s goal to install 5,000 3G base stations within one year under a 16-billion-baht investment budget.

The country’s largest mobile operator also said if TOT decided not to choose AIS as a strategic partner for a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement, TOT must explain the decision to the public, as AIS offered the highest number and quality of base stations.

”We really cannot accept the roaming deal. If we do accept it, it means we hand a dagger to True to kill us,” said AIS chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn.

A proposal outlined this week calls for TOT to roam its 3G network on the 1900-Megahertz frequency with CAT’s network on the analogue 850-MHz spectrum using the same high-speed packet access plus equipment.

The two state telecom enterprises have been given considerable latitude to develop 3G networks because years of regulatory paralysis and legal challenges have stalled the issuance of 3G licences.

CAT earlier this year reached an agreement with True Corp to develop a 3G network after True acquired the Hutch mobile business.

Mr Wichian said he did not understand TOT’s reasoning behind the roaming plan with CAT, given that both state enterprises are gearing up for nationwide 3G network expansion. TOT is also in talks with AIS for joint construction of about 2,000 base stations to accelerate its network expansion at a reduced cost.

TOT needs to share sites with AIS because the former’s 3G investment budget has been cut from 29 billion baht to 16 billion.

”We are confused about the roaming plan. With our co-site plan the state could start commercial nationwide 3G service without delay,” he said.

”Their 3G roaming agreement coinciding with our co-site project could strengthen True’s 3G capacity even further.”

A TOT executive, who asked not to be named, said that Samart I-Mobile and AIS were likely to be the only two strategic partners for an MVNO, but he claimed that a politically connected TOT board director was attempting to block AIS from becoming a partner.

”The director is the same person behind the 3G roaming deal,” he said.


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