TOT board to finalises backs fibre-optic upgrade for phone lines & Samart MVNO proposal

source The Nation by Usanee Mongkoporn
Thai state-owned telecommunications company TOT has finalised the details of a plan to allow Samart to provide 3G mobile services on its network as an MVNO.

TOT’s board yesterday approved the state agency’s plan to spend Bt2.6 billion next year to upgrade its fixed-line telephone network to fibre optics, serving 849,183 home and office phone numbers.

Board chairman Udom Puasakul said TOT would finance the project by its own cash flow. It will enable TOT to offer value-added multimedia services to make more revenue.

The agency will submit this project for consideration to the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, then to the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Cabinet. The board also asked management to seek a way to finance the maintenance of the ICT Ministry’s free Wi-Fi project. TOT needs Bt2.86 billion for this. The board said TOT should seek funds from either the ICT Ministry, other government agencies or the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

The ICT Ministry has joined with private and state telecom operators to carry out the Wi-Fi project. The NBTC granted financial support of Bt950 million to TOT to set up the service in 150,000 spots nationwide during the next three years, but TOT said this would only cover the cost of equipment. Therefore, it needs more money to maintain the system.

In a separate matter, Udom said TOT had finalised the details of a plan to contract Samart Corp to provide third-generation cellular service on TOT’s network on a mobile-virtual-network basis.

The plan will be presented for the board’s consideration next month, but he declined to provide more details.

A TOT source said that under the final plan, Samart would pay 46 per cent of the revenue from the service to TOT, a slight change from the previous plan of 45 per cent. It will utilise 40 per cent of TOT’s 3G network. The TOT network has enough capacity to serve 7.2 million customers.

The contract awarded Samart will last until 2025 and will be revised every two years. During the first year Samart is to guarantee minimum payment to TOT of Bt476 million and Bt597 million in the second year, a change from Bt156 million and Bt201 million.

TOT is expected to complete the establishment of 5,320 3G base stations in August. It partnered with five companies, including Samart, to offer 3G service on the mobile-virtual-network basis many years ago but on short-term contracts. It is now in the process of asking them to propose new long-term business plans.

TOT and its five partners had a total of 289,129 3G subscribers as of Tuesday.

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