Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thailand CDMA suppliers throw weight behind CAT

A consortium of leading code division multiple access (CDMA) suppliers is seeking a role in third-generation (3G) CDMA mobile broadband in Thailand, now that CAT Telecom is moving to promote its nationwide commercial service.

The state enterprise's nationwide CDMA service represented a strong endorsement of CDMA growth in Thailand, said James Person, chief operating officer of the CDMA Development Group (CDG). The alliance includes Qualcomm, the US company that developed the CDMA standard, along with Motorola, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and ZTE.

Mr Person said 286 operators in 109 countries now used CDMA 2000, with 451 million subscribers. Asia is the largest CDMA market with 50% of the global total. It posted 38% growth in 2007, driven by India, China and Indonesia.

''The number of CDMA subscribers globally is projected to surpass 500 million over the next 12 months,'' Mr Person said yesterday in Bangkok, one of the stops on the group's two-week roadshow in Asia.

He said the target customers for CDMA had been shifted from developed countries to developing and emerging markets.

CAT Telecom is using CDMA 1xEV-DO Revision A, the first 3G mobile broadband technology. It offers data rates up to 3.1 Megabits per second (Mbps) from the network to the user device, and up to 1.8 Mbps at peak rates from the user to the network or another user device.

Venkat Narayanaiah, director for business development of Alcatel-Lucent, said CDMA devices had declined significantly in cost, with handsets now as little as US$20, down from $120 a unit in 2004.

Jirayut Rungsrithong, senior executive vice-president of CAT Telecom, said CAT was developing a business plan for its 3G CDMA nationwide service and planned to focus on areas with strong network coverage.

He said CAT would provide services in 10 major provinces with high population density, such as Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Chon Buri, Phuket, Surat Thani, Nakhon Sawan and Maha Sarakham.

Mr Jirayut acknowledged that it would be difficult for CAT to compete with its three much larger rivals, Advanced Info Service, DTAC and True Move. They use the GSM standard and have a combined customer base of 54 million.

The Hutch CDMA service in which CAT is a partner has about 800,000 users.

But he said CAT still had an advantage in terms of high-speed network quality. It expects to have a total of 180,000 subscribers to its new CDMA service by the end of this year, up from 50,000 currently.

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