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Thai firms allowed to import 3G equipment


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Thai firms allowed to import 3G equipment
Thailand’s National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) gives a green light for three mobile phone operators to import equipment for third-generation mobile services, reported Reuters on Thursday.

Reuters quoted NTC chairman Choochart Promphrasid as saying that the board has approved the proposals for the three operators, leader Advanced Info Service (AIS), second-ranked Total Access Communication (DTAC) and number three True Move.

AIS will invest 1.29 billion baht ($38 million) to upgrade base stations, while TAC will invest around 5 billion baht, NTC secretary-general Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn said.

AIS was the first to launch the high-speed phone Internet services in Chiang Mai in May, but it had to put off plans to expand coverage and start more services pending approval of equipment imports.

DTAC, controlled by Norway’s Telenor, has said it planned to launch the 3G service on its existing 850 MHz frequency in Bangkok and major cities by the end of this year.

Thai telecoms operators are competing to deploy new technologies, including 3G on existing networks, to extract new revenue from a nearly saturated sector. They are also keen to receive new 3G licences on a new 2.1 GHz spectrum from the telecoms regulator.

Suranan said the regulator should issue the long-awaited 3G licences by early 2009.

3G licensing is seen as a key step in reforming the sector because companies will pay licence fees instead of paying a portion of their revenue to state-owned firms for the right to operate networks they built and paid for, as they do now.

But the pace of reform has been muddled by slow progress in setting up another regulator to join the NTC in allocating 3G spectrums.

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