The new TOT board has given the state agency a 90-day deadline to implement the first phase of its third-generation (3G) service on a full-scale commercial basis.
It will also have to draft an investment plan for the second phase, which will see 15,000 to 18,000 base stations built to resolve service loopholes.
TOT is the only operator allowed to own rights and operate 3G service on the standard 2100-megahertz spectrum before the broadcasting and telecommunications regulator is established.
The new board led by Udom Puasakul, a former director-general of the Public Works and Town & Country Planning Department, began its term of office two weeks ago.
He and the other seven board members, mostly academics, expect to solve several critical problems for the state agency such as raising money to ease its heavy financial burdens and adding value to its nationwide service network.
In May 2011, TOT's board awarded a 16-billion-baht contract to a consortium of Samart Telecoms Plc and Loxley Plc to build a nationwide 3G network with 5,200 base stations.
TOT's 3G service now has nearly 200,000 subscribers _ 140,000 from five companies that are its mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and 60,000 of its own subscribers.
The five MVNOs are Samart I-Mobile, Loxley, IEC Technology, 365 Communication and M Consult.
An MVNO provides a mobile service by renting facilities from network owners. It does not have its own licensed frequency allocation or the infrastructure required.
Previously, TOT planned to launch its 3G commercial service nationwide this past May, but that was initially postponed to this month.
However, all the base stations have not yet been installed.
Gp Capt Anudith Nakornthap, the information and communication technology minister, said "wrong policies" by the previous government had made TOT face a disaster.
The previous government had slashed the budget for installing TOT's 3G stations to 15.9 billion baht from 29 billion for unclear reasons.
This prompted the state agency to have only 5,200 base stations with which to provide nationwide 3G service.
In the first phase, TOT needs to use more than 1,000 co-site stations with other mobile operators, which is why it cannot compete with other players in the fierce business environment, said Gp Capt Anudith.
For the second phase, the former board studied the specific amount of stations and technology required.
The former board approved in principle that TOT would apply for a 30-MHz bandwidth licence from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
TOT now owns 64 MHz of bandwidth on 2300 MHz and will have to return the spectrum that is not used to the NBTC soon.
However, TOT plans to reserve about 30 MHz for its own use and propose a plan to invest more on base stations to accommodate 3G service.
TOT believes it will help to provide end-to-end 3G service nationwide and reduce investment costs in the long run.
The second phase is expected to operate with LTE technology on the 2300-MHz spectrum, while the first phase with 5,200 stations will be operated on 2100 MHz.
TOT hopes to resolve loopholes in the first phase that prevented 3G coverage at many locations.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter