The Nation



CAT set to select adviser on 4G service

Agency also discussing strategic partnership with SK Telecom

CAT Telecom has completed the draft for selecting an adviser next quarter for its business plan to develop a fourth-generation wireless broadband service and enter the bidding for the 1,800-megahertz spectrum.

After hiring the adviser, CAT will hurry to conclude current talks with a potential strategic partner to bid jointly for the 1,800MHz spectrum, Tanwadee Wongterarit, a senior executive vice president, said yesterday.

She did not name the other party, but CAT has disclosed that it is discussing forming a strategic partnership with SK Telecom.

The 4G cellular business would use Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission is expected to hold the 1,800MHz auction in the third quarter of next year, but it has still not decided how many bands to make available, besides a 20MHz band.

The NBTC has said it might include the 900MHz spectrum of Advanced Info Service (AIS) in the auction. AIS's concession from TOT ends in 2015.

CAT wants to have its own LTE wireless network as its new flagship business because under the Frequency Allocation Act it and the other state telecom agency, TOT, will have to start transferring all their concession revenue to the government at the end of this year.

"We have already consulted with the NESDB [National Social and Economic Development Board] on the bidding process and got the green light to join the auction without proposing the budget plan to the NESDB or Cabinet," Tanwadee said.

CAT has enough internal cash flow to enter the bidding and can look for a loan as it has a "AA-" rating from Fitch, she said.

CAT already offers a 3G-850MHz service, which is expected to have 700,000 users next year, up from this year's estimated 170,000 users. The agency also targets 100,000 users for its fibre-optic broadband service in 2014, up from 30,000 users currently.

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