Thai state-owned operator CAT Telecom expects to establish two network sharing joint ventures with its mobile build-transfer-operate (BTO) concessionaire Total Access Communication (DTAC) this year, which will begin operations next year, according to CAT’s acting president Sanpachai Huvananda. The details of the partnership to operate Tower JV Co and Fibre JV Co, both 49:51 joint ventures between CAT and Telenor subsidiary DTAC, were approved by CAT’s board earlier this week, the Bangkok Post learned, following a memorandum of understanding signed between the pair last December. DTAC’s original 2G 1800MHz BTO concession issued by CAT runs until 2018.
Sanpachai said CAT would submit all details of the two joint ventures to the State Enterprises Policy Commission (a.k.a. the ‘superboard’ formed under Thailand’s military-led administration) and the ICT Ministry this month before passing them to the Cabinet for approval next month. It is claimed that once the partnership details are endorsed by ministers, a total of 15 ongoing arbitration disputes between CAT and DTAC (on issues including BTO network component ownership) will be ended to facilitate the network sharing partnership. Although agreement on the joint venture plan has not been independently confirmed by DTAC, Sanpachai claimed DTAC has effectively agreed to transfer the relevant telecom towers and related fibre-optic infrastructure three years ahead of its BTO concession ending. According to a separate report from Thai newspaper The Nation, the private sector cellco would have to inject around THB6.6 billion (USD186 million) in return for 51% shareholdings in both tower/fibre JVs while CAT would pay nothing for its 49% stakes. Tower JV Co would reportedly incorporate around 8,000 towers currently under arbitration dispute, roughly valued at a reported THB13 billion. DTAC owns outright another approximately 4,000 towers under its own 3G/4G operating licence.
DTAC is under fierce pressure to expand its 3G/4G infrastructure to meet mobile broadband demand and keep pace with rivals AIS and True, after having its expansion programme blocked by court orders related to the network ownership disputes with CAT. A report emerged today that the Telenor unit is also poised to share towers with cellular market leader AIS to strengthen network coverage, with details of the plan to be released tomorrow, The Nation adds.