By USANEE MONGKOLPORN
The initiative follows the government’s plan to spend Bt20 billion to extend the national broadband network to all 74,000 villages nationwide and the construction of new international Internet gateways.
These networks, which will be owned by the ICT Ministry, will be put in the planned infrastructure fund, which will sell share units to investors.
The money from the fund will be for the further expansion of the telecom infrastructure. The fund will be the government’s vehicle for seeking money for its ICT-infrastructure expansion.
Uttama said the plan for setting up the fund would be clearer next quarter. He added that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had agreed in principle with the idea and had urged the ICT Ministry to start drawing up details of the plan.
“Apart from the government network, [the ICT Ministry] will invite all telecom operators to sell their network assets to the fund. The fund assets may access Bt100 billion for national telecom infrastructure fund which is the biggest fund value,” Uttama said.
Currently, there are two listed private telecom infrastructure funds in Thailand, the Digital Infrastructure Fund of True Corporation and the Jasmine Broadband Internet Infrastructure Fund of Jasmine International.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved the ICT Ministry’s plan to spend Bt20 billion to connect all 74,000 villages with wireless or fixed-line broadband. Currently, 40,000 villages have broadband access.
The ICT Ministry will set up a project management office led by permanent secretary Songporn Komolsuradej. She said this was the ministry’s biggest project, so it would have to handle it carefully.
The Bt20-billion budget has come out of the Bt80.78 billion in total upfront fees paid to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission by the winners of the 1,800-megahertz licence auction in November.
The ministry has asked TOT and CAT Telecom to be the main parties to install these networks under its project.
TOT has proposed to use its 2.3-gigahertz spectrum to provide broadband access under the project, while CAT has offered to expand it with its 850MHz spectrum for wireless service.