TOT losing its interest in debt-ridden Thai Mobile

22 Apr 2008

(Bangkok Post via NewsEdge) The new board of TOT is unlikely to purchase the 42% stake held by CAT Telecom in their Thai Mobile joint venture as the business environment has changed and the price of 2.4 billion baht ($76 million) is now too high, said a TOT source.

The company also has accumulated debt of over 6 billion baht ($190 million), plus a court case over 2.6 billion baht ($77 million) owed to Samart Corporation, he said.

Thai Mobile has been operating for six years and had 240,000 customers at its peak. Now it has fewer than 50,000 in a market of 54 million cellular users.

The source said the only useful asset of Thai Mobile was its 1900Mhz spectrum because it was the International Telecommunication Union standard for 3G service.

But TOT has been reluctant to invest more money and wanted to make a joint investment with CAT to develop 3G and become a network owner.

The sourcesaid the private sector could be invited to invest in the network through a joint-investment model.

The source also said that testing of HSPA technology on the existing spectrum by private operators was risky because it was still unclear if they could launch commercial service by themselves or whether they needed licences since they were still bound by existing concessions with TOT and CAT.

AIS has been granted permission from the National Telecommunications Commission to import equipment for HSPA tests with TOT, while DTAC and True Move are seeking permission from the NTC to test on the 850 MHz spectrum. DTAC has already asked the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to urge CAT to speed up the process of importing equipment. DTAC chief commercial officer Thana Thienachariya said that any delay would put DTAC and CAT at a disadvantage to TOT and AIS.

© 2008 Bangkok Post

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