Friday, November 30, 2007

Thailand fixed carriers plot comeback plans

Thailand’s two state-run carriers, the Telephone Organisation of Thailand (TOT) and Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT), have both announced plans for turning around declining voice revenues, according to local media reports.

TOT’s board last week approved a four-year turnaround plan that involves increasing broadband Internet from 200,000 ports currently to 3.3 million ports as part of a 64 billion baht (around US$2 billion) spending package, while CAT announced that five consortiums have made bids for a 2.6 billion baht (US$83 million) ASON fibre network.

According to The Nation, TOT’s plan will also involve increasing fixed lines from 3 million to 5 million and upgrading 80 per cent of its infrastructure to a next-generation network. It also calls for a 3G network to be up and running to offer a mix of broadcasting and telecom services.

TOT and CAT jointly own Thai Mobile, currently the only operator with 3G spectrum. However, disputes regarding ownership and management have curtailed its widespread rollout. TOT will present its rehabilitation plan to the Finance Ministry for approval next month. It also involves reducing staff from 19,000 to 17,000 through an early retirement programme, according to The Nation.

Meanwhile, a consortium involving Huawei and Thailand’s Loxley group has been added to the approved bids list for CAT’s ASON project. The Bangkok Post reported that five groups of companies have now met the requirements to bid for the project. Ericsson, Jasmine, Marubeni and NEC had already made the cut.

The project has been somewhat controversial, as CAT relaxed a requirement that bidders must have completed a project worth at least 390 million baht. The board later reduced the requirement to 200 million baht to allow more companies to compete. Huawei was also involved in CAT’s nationwide CDMA 2000 1x network in 51 provinces, which is the subject of a dispute over late delivery of the network.

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