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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  April 2011

Firm fights Thai telecoms maze

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DTAC, Thailand’s second largest mobile firm, is determined to move forward with its 3G plan by setting aside 1.2 billion baht (US$39.8 million) in contingency funds for a network upgrade.

DTACis signaling its determination to fight back against the "unfair treatment and unacceptable conditions" imposed by its concession owner, state-owned CAT Telecom.

"We have no choice but to go forward with our 3G plan to retain our rights and promote the health of the turbulent industry," said Jon Eddy Abdullah, the company's new chief executive. "We could no longer wait now that our rivals [AIS and True Move] already have 3G."

The CAT board last Friday withdrew its approval for DTAC to start providing commercial 3G wireless broadband service, citing the mobile operator's failure to agree to its terms.

Specifically, CAT wanted DTAC to pledge that it would not seek compensation from the state enterprise for its 3G investment if the company's concession is revoked as a result of the ongoing dispute over earlier concession amendments.

DTAC has agreed only to waive a possible claim for damage to 1,220 planned 3G base stations, instead of for all 3G investment.

The withdrawal of concession contracts is seen as a possibility if current negotiations between the two state telecom enterprises and private operators fail to reach a conclusion on compensation claimed by TOT and CAT for past amendments.

Earlier, CAT had given tentative approval to DTAC to provide commercial 3G services, but the move was seen as an attempt to defuse criticism of CAT for a hastily arranged 14-year agreement with third-ranked True Move.

Despite lacking approval from CAT, Mr Abdullah said the company was now moving to spend 1.2 billion baht to upgrade its existing analogue 850 MHz frequency to high-speed packet access (HSPA) on 1,220 base stations.

The first phase of the upgrade would involve 400 base stations in Bangkok and cost 350 million baht (US$11.6 million).

"The upgrade would take between two and three months to complete, and 3G service should be ready in the third quarter of this year," said Mr Abdullah, who succeeded Tore Johnsen as chief of DTAC on March 1.

DTAC plans to spend an additional 850 million baht to upgrade 820 base stations in 20 other towns and rural areas.

Mr. Abdullah said he remained optimistic that DTAC could negotiate a settlement with CAT.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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