Telenor maintains Thai ties
The head of Telenor Group finally broke his silence on Friday over the uncertain future swirling around its Thai mobile operating unit, insisting the Norwegian firm did not plan to exit its most lucrative country.
Sigve Brekke, chief executive and president of Telenor of Norway, the major shareholder in Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC), said the Thai mobile unit contributed a large proportion of revenue to Telenor Group, with 14.4% in last year's third quarter.
Half of Telenor's revenue came from Asia. The company has a combined 200 million subscribers in 13 countries including six in Asia.
"We'll invest 20 billion baht in network expansion here this year," he said.
Telenor is majority-owned by the Norwegian government. It has a long-term investment policy and guidelines.
Mr Brekke said Asia including Thailand was exploding in terms of mobile data traffic. Asia dominates the telecommunications industry globally, with eight of 10 mobile device makers based on the continent.
Mobile users in Thailand spend an average of six to eight hours a day on their mobiles, a level unseen in other countries, Mr Brekke said, adding that Asia was the digital frontrunner.
Responding to DTAC failing to secure a fourth-generation (4G) licence, Mr Brekke said Telenor relied on long-term investment strategies and a long-term growth perspective, not short-term challenges or a single crisis.
"We have enough spectra to serve our business growth and customer needs over the next two to five years," he said, adding that the winning bid prices for the 900-megahertz spectrum were surprisingly high.
Mr Brekke said DTAC must acquire more spectra after 2020 to serve skyrocketing data traffic, which had more than doubled in Thailand in the past two years.
"We're confident of winning back the 1800-MHz spectrum, now used by DTAC and due to expire in 2018, thanks to our strong financial health and lack of financial burdens," he said.
Mr Brekke said while DTAC did face a slew of challenges, Telenor did not base its decision-making on any single factor.
Mr Brekke urged the Thai government to bring the 850-, 1800-, 2300-, 2600- and 700-MHz spectra to auction to raise more money for the country and accommodate massive data traffic.
DTAC chief executive Lars Norling said his company was on the verge of rolling out a nationwide 4G network on the 2100-MHz spectrum.
4G subscribers are expected to number 4.5 million this year, up by 105%.
DTAC shares closed yesterday on the Stock exchange of Thailand at 30.50 baht, up one baht, in trade worth 309 million baht.