Behind the TOT-CAT merger plan

Metaratings
08 Dec 2014
00:00
Article

Over the weekend I had the chance to watch a particularly painful, verging on embarrassing television interview with a generic, nondescript civil servant in the state enterprise policy office about the recent super-board directive for the two state telcos to merge, among other things.

“TOT has lots of copper, CAT has fiber. If we can provide fiber to the home, we can get 100 meg broadband speeds”, the director-level chap who said, setting the tone for what must have sent a million palms crashing into faces all across the Kingdom.

He cited France as an example of open access where any provider can use the common carrier over which to provide a service. An odd choice to say the least given how France’s industry has been criticized as being slow to move on from DSL because of the market structure and how it does not promote technological competition, not that he would have had a clue, I guess.

But perhaps the most valuable insight into the inner workings of the state enterprise policy commission were two throwaway comments the director made. One was when he said that the state enterprises must survive, implicitly ruling out any shut-down plan, and the other when he spoke of the two ailing state banks, SME bank and the Islamic Bank of Thailand.

“The Bank of Thailand must apply different criteria when regulating these banks as they are operating for the greater good,” he said.

Can or should the state enterprise policy commission influence or order around the independent regulators? Be it the telecoms regulator or the banking regulator?

The SEPC also suggested the CAT and TOT labour unions were to blame for the state telcos’ problems.

Elsewhere, True has told CAT Telecom that the state telco should sell its towers and assets to True’s infrastructure fund as a way of bringing to a close the decade-long dispute over ownership of the build-transfer-operate 2G assets which were never transferred to CAT.

Well, that is one way of ending a dispute and I would not be at all surprised if it were to be the case soon.

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