True aims to migrate 2G users ‘in four months’; CAT’s 3G investment with True approved

9 Oct 2013

Thailand’s True Corp claims it is preparing to migrate the approximately 17 million users of its 2G 1800MHz True Move network to its 3G/4G True Move H services ‘within four months’, far ahead of the twelve-month time limit set by the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), the Bangkok Post reports. The company has two available methods of migrating customers, via mobile number portability (MNP) or a method involving SMS message notifications between True and its existing users, according to Chakkrit Urairat, deputy director for regulatory issues at True Corp. The existing MNP system has the capacity to handle 60,000 numbers a day – and is therefore theoretically adequate to handle the necessary volume of ports between True Move and True Move H by September 2014, when the one-year extension to True’s 2G 1800MHz build-transfer-operate (BTO) concession with state-owned CAT Telecom expires. However, Mr Chakkrit indicated that True favours using a faster method involving sending an SMS to targeted customers requesting permission to swap their service between the 2G and 3G/4G systems. The report quotes an NBTC representative as saying that the watchdog would be monitoring the proposed migration process to ensure it meets regulations.

True reported 18.22 million True Move 2G users at the end of June 2013, plus 3.87 million True Move H subscribers. Under the True Move H brand the group operates 3G 850MHz services via subsidiary Real Move (technically acting as a reseller of CAT’s 850MHz capacity), which reportedly has 14 million mobile numbers available for new customers; and 3G/4G 2100MHz services via another subsidiary, Real Future (the direct holder of a 2100MHz network operating licence) which has five million available mobile numbers, according to Chakkrit. The 850MHz/2100MHz networks are integrated for national roaming.

In related news, the Thai Cabinet yesterday approved CAT’s THB14.545 billion (USD463 million) budget for investment in the development of 3G network services in partnership with True Corp’s subsidiary BFKT, which leases 850MHz network capacity to CAT – in turn resold by Real Move under the True Move H banner. Daily newspaper The Nation reports that ICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap confirmed the proposals had been approved by ministers as part of CAT’s strategy to improve its financial standing between now and 2017, having already been given the green-light by the State Enterprise Policy Office. The 3G 850MHz wholesale-resale arrangement between CAT and True has been in place since January 2011 when they signed 14-year contracts, while CAT also uses some of BFKT’s network capacity to provide its own retail 3G service. Of the total earmarked by CAT for additional spending on the venture, THB12.525 billion will be invested in the transmission system and THB670 million on the core network rollout. CAT’s CEO Kitisak Sriprasert said that in the past two years CAT had not received any revenue from the CAT-True operation (which launched commercially in August 2011), pending Cabinet’s approval to invest in it, although he added that the project ‘made a profit for CAT of THB1 billion over the past two years, which is expected to rise to THB4 billion this year and THB7 billion in 2014.’ Following contract amendments imposed following state investigations into the legality of the CAT-True 3G agreement, the public-private partners are expected to sign the finalised jointly amended documents soon.

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