TOT, CAT nod to roaming between 3G networks
Sharing limited to 400,000 users from each side
State agencies TOT and CAT Telecom have signed a memorandum of understanding for one year of roaming between their two third-generation cellular networks to benefit their subscribers.
The MoU is in line with the Information and Communications Technology Ministry's policy of network-infrastructure sharing between state agencies to save costs and reduce redundant investment. The roaming is limited to 400,000 users from each of the two sides. It is expected to begin soon, pending agreement on the roaming fee.
TOT appears to gain most from the deal as it has only about 4,000 cell sites on its 2.1-gigahertz network across the country, while CAT has about 13,000 sites providing 3G on the 850-megahertz spectrum countrywide. TOT is expected to have a total of 5,300 3G sites installed by April.
TOT president Yongyuth Wattanasin said the roaming would serve customers of the agency's five reseller partners that provide 3G service on its network.
"The roaming will enable us to widen our 3G network coverage," he said.
As of yesterday, TOT had 220,518 3G subscribers, of whom 178,074 are prepaid. TOT itself had 74,076 subscribers, while the rest belonged to its five partners.
TOT already allows a maximum of 1 million 3G customers to roam using the network of its concession holder Advanced Info Service. The new MoU with CAT is TOT's second roaming deal.
A CAT source said it had looked at allowing TOT to roam with only 20 per cent of its 3G-850MHz network capacity, given that it must always allocate 80 per cent capacity for Real Move, which provides the service under a CAT resale contract. Real Move of True Corp has about 4 million customers.
Yongyuth said the TOT board was considering granting a 12-year deal to Samart Corp to provide 3G service on its network.
Samart recently proposed to pay 45 per cent of its revenue from the service to TOT, up from the previously proposed 40 per cent. Samart will net 38 per cent of the revenue after deducting 17 per cent for its marketing costs.
In a related matter, TOT will install 200 fourth-generation cell sites in Bangkok at an estimated cost of Bt50 million. It is expected to launch the 4G service commercially in April.