The TOT board yesterday went ahead and approved the awarding of a Bt15.99billion contract to the SL consortium of Loxley-Samart to set up a nationwide third-generation wireless broadband network.
The approval came ahead of a general election and despite a complaint filed by the Ericsson-AS Associate Engineering (1964) consortium at the Central Administrative Court against TOT’s bidderqualification process. The consortium claims that it was unfairly disqualified from the bid.
The Office of the Auditor-General has still not investigated whether the qualification process was conducted transparently.
TOT board spokesman Prapan Boonyakiat said after the board meeting that the agency would be able to clarify all doubtful issues.
He did not specify when the deal would be granted to the SL consortium but it has been speculated that the contract will be signed next Friday, when the government is anticipated to announce dissolution of the House of Representatives to prepare for a general election.
Prapan added that the SL consortium would have to move more quickly than originally planned on the first phase of the project, setting up 5,320 base stations, given the delay in the awarding of the contract.
TOT had originally planned to sign the contract with the consortium in the middle of March and launch the service in Greater Bangkok this month in a move to acquire additional 3G subscribers.
In the matter of doubts over Loxley’s qualifications, Prapan said the company owned only 30,000 shares in TT&T, therefore it does not control TT&T and thus meets the bidderqualification criteria.
In the case of Samart, he said that company’s VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) business was not a competitor of TOT.
The terms of reference for TOT’s 3G project prohibit companies competing with TOT’s fixedline and mobilephone businesses from taking part in the bid. The SL consortium won the bid on January 28 by quoting Bt16.29 billion, which was 6.59 per cent below the state agency’s budget of Bt17.44 billion. The TOT bidding committee then bargained the price down to Bt16 billion.
TOT has pinned hope on the new 3G network to become its new revenue source. It debuted its existing 3G network in December 2009 but with limited coverage in Greater Bangkok.