NT set to launch 5G services in December

NT set to launch 5G services in December

Move clarifies how it will deploy frequency

The newly-appointed president of National Telecom (NT) says the company will launch its 5G mobile services through the 700-megahertz spectrum range in December, putting an end to the long obscurity over how it would capitalise on the frequency which was obtained two years ago.

Col Sanphachai Huvanandana said 5G service on the 700MHz spectrum range is one of the company's most important projects. Others include efforts to support the government's digital transformation through the Government Data Centre and Cloud (GDCC) and the move to bring overhead cables underground.

Col Sanphachai assumed the leadership role at NT last month. He was the former board director and ex-president of CAT Telecom, and former board director of the NT before resigning in late 2021.

NT's board recently approved Advanced Info Service (AIS), the country's biggest mobile operator by subscriber base, as its business partner for 700MHz-related services, but the move still requires approval from the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) and the cabinet.

The related process is expected to be wrapped up by November and the service commercially launched in December, he said.

NT has paid 6.6 billion baht in two instalments to the telecom regulator for the spectrum licence, which lasts 15 years with 13 years remaining now.

Col Sanphachai insisted the winning bid price for the 20MHz of bandwidth on the 700MHz spectrum at 34.3 billion baht is not too expensive although the cost is 100% higher than the same range held by bigger rivals in the mobile market.

The 700MHz range was obtained by CAT Telecom in the 5G spectrum auction held in 2020. CAT later merged with TOT into NT in January last year.

"CAT's bid for the 700MHz licence was done through a feasibility study under the market situation at that time," he said.

He said NT's 5G service is not aimed at competing with bigger rivals.

The firm initially budgeted 10 billion baht to pursue the mobile services through 700MHz.

Under the deal with AIS the latter will make use of 10MHz of bandwidth on the 700MHz range held by NT and be responsible for installing cellular base stations covering the population, in line with NT's requirement, according to a source on the NT board, who requested anonymity.

NT will rent AIS's cellular base stations and related equipment in order to provide 5G services on the remaining 10MHz of bandwidth, with a rental fee paid to AIS until the spectrum licence expires.

AIS is also expected to facilitate NT's services through future network collaboration.

Under this deal, NT would pay 15 billion baht to AIS in three instalments, the source said.

Col Sanphachai said NT may have to seek more partnership deals in pursuing marketing.

NT also aims to become a neutral operator for the sharing of its infrastructure, including cellular towers, micro cell sites, conduits and submarine cables.

NT has a broad range of assets worth 216 billion baht but the return of investment is still low at 1%, Col Sanphachai said.

As of June, the company booked net profit of 1.6 billion baht.

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