By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
JASMINE MOBILE Broadband has reached a preliminary deal with CAT Telecom to lease 1,000 telecommunications towers to provide fourth-generation wireless broadband service under its newly acquired 900MHz licence.
Sanpachai Huvanandana, acting chief executive officer of CAT, acknowledged yesterday that Jasmine International (JAS) had approached the state agency about using its telecom towers but declined to elaborate. JAS was reportedly also in talks with TOT and the Digital Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund about renting their networks.
CAT has 5,000 of its own telecom towers, besides the towers built under concessions by telecom operators. A telecom-industry source said the talks with TOT on the possible lease of TOT’s towers had yet to be concluded, since TOT and Advanced Info Service (AIS) are still in a dispute over the ownership of those towers.
JAS subsidiary Jasmine Mobile Broadband and True Move H Universal Communication were the two winners of telecom licences on the 900-megahertz spectrum last week. AIS and Total Access Communication (DTAC) were the losers.
A telecom analyst has said he expects competition to intensify, as DTAC is likely to resort soon to a pricing strategy to defend its market share.
AIS’s capital expenditures are likely to be higher than his previous assumption, because of the lack of a 900MHz service, which requires lower capex than the bands it controls.
The 900MHz frequency that was auctioned last week had been held by AIS, but its concession expired in September.
The analyst believes AIS is well positioned to fight a price war for a few years. But the key challenge is how it can quickly move 11 million subscribers, 30 per cent of its total subscriber base, from its 2G-900MHz network to the 1,800MHz and 2,100MHz networks of its subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network before the second-generation network is shut down.
On Tuesday, AIS said it would start offering subsidised handsets tomorrow to its 2G-900MHz subscribers to get them to move to AWN’s networks.
The analyst expects the handset subsidy to cost AIS Bt15 billion. Once any of the two licence winners pays the first instalment of the upfront fee, AIS has to shut down its 900MHz service.
Camilla Vautier, president of Ericsson Thailand, has said the smartphone-subscription penetration rate in Thailand is expected to surge to more than 90 per cent by 2018 from about 60 per cent now.
With the recent 4G licence auctions, 4G subscriptions in Thailand will reach about 30 per cent of total mobile subscriptions by 2018. Ericsson Thailand forecasts the total number of mobile phone subscriptions in Thailand at 87 million this year and 99 million in 2018.