Red tape postpones NT launch until January

Red tape postpones NT launch until January

TOT-CAT merger was to conclude in July

The merger of state telecom enterprises TOT and CAT will conclude next January, instead of this July as originally scheduled, due to the coronavirus crisis and bureaucratic snags, says the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry.

The plan is to create a new company, National Telecom (NT).

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta intends to put forward the postponement request at the next cabinet meeting for consideration.

The deferral is needed in part because of delays in related operations, including paperwork between local agencies and international creditors, he said, adding progress has been made in the legal, financial and HR preparations.

"I have assigned the two organisations to work hard together to pave the way for establishment of a sole organisation," he said.

At February's 5G spectrum license auction, TOT secured four slots of the 26GHz range and CAT won two slots of the 700MHz range. TOT has been assigned to convert its existing service spots into 5G service centres to cater to future 5G adoption.

CAT and TOT are also in talks with private firms that would serve as strategic partners in 5G service, Mr Buddhipongse said.

Neither enterprise secured bandwidth in the 2600MHz range, regarded as crucial in the early stage of 5G service, at the auction. To address this weak point, TOT and CAT need more partners to ensure sufficient service capacity, Mr Buddhipongse said.

TOT has existing partnership deals with big mobile operators Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) for the use of the state enterprise's 2100MHz and 2300MHz ranges, respectively.

True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) has a partnership deal to use CAT's 850MHz range. The spectrum holding rights enjoyed by TOT and CAT expire in 2025.

Referring to the new NT's structure, Mr Buddhipongse said the company will have co-presidents for a certain period of time.

One will be CAT's president, Col Sanphachai Huvanandana, and the other will be TOT's senior executive vice-president, Morakot Thienmontree, who would be appointed as the acting TOT president in July, according to the DES minister. Col Sanphachai's working term at CAT ends in August.

Meanwhile, SET-listed satellite service provider Thaicom has partnered with CAT to establish a joint venture company to operate satellite-related business.

The establishment of Nation Space and Technology Co with registered capital of 10 million baht was reported by Thaicom to the Stock Exchange of Thailand on Friday.

Thaicom holds a 75% stake in the firm and CAT owns the rest.

Thaicom said low earth orbit (LEO) satellite business is among its new targets.

The development of tech services via LEO satellites will support the rise of online transactions, reduce limitations and solve problems in service areas, the company said.

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