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TOT to expand 3G cellular base stations

TOT plans to expand its 3G cellular base stations to between 18,000 to 20,000 sites nationwide within the next two years, TOT board chairman Panthep Chamrasromran said yesterday.

He added that TOT's board has also approved the plan to open for any firms that propose to lease its 3G capacity for providing service on a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) basis. It will not limit the number of MVNO partners.

He said TOT needs to further expand the 3G network coverage from the current plan to install 5,320 sites in 18 provinces, which will be completed by next May.

He added that the board had just okayed the new network expansion plan to between 18,000 to 20,000 bases but it has yet to estimate the cost. The board has to prepare the details for consideration by the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Cabinet, before seeking bank loans.

Panthep said that if TOT is allowed to further expand network coverage, it would launch the new auction to procure the network. It will not call for a repeat order from the consortium of Loxley-Samart.

In April, TOT granted a deal worth Bt15.99 billion to Loxley-Samart to roll out 4,700 new 3G base stations in 18 provinces and relocate its existing 548 3G base stations in greater Bangkok.

However, TOT has delayed the plan to formally launch the service on this network in 18 provinces to May from early this year due to the recent flooding. Currently 1,145 bases have been installed. Of the total, 789 bases are located in TOT sites, 201 in CAT Telecom sites, and 155 are in new sites. The state agency is expected to finish installing 3,458 bases by next February and total of 5,320 bases in May. Of the total, it aims to install 393 bases in the North to cover major economic provinces, of which 151 bases will be located in Chiang Mai.

Panthep added that the state agency is expected to have new MVNO partners within this month. They have to propose business plans and minimum guarantee to TOT.

TOT's five current MVNO partners - Samart i-Mobile, Loxley, IEC, M Consultant, and 365 Communications - can also propose new business plans to TOT if they want to continue to be the state agency's MVNO partners. TOT will have to cancel the MoU for MVNO partnership it signed with the five once it recruits new MVNO partners.

Five of them had leased capacity from TOT's existing 3G network in greater Bangkok to provide service. The state agency debuted the 3G network in greater Bangkok in December 2009. The MVNOs are firms without their own network and have leased capacity from the network operators to offer cellular service.

Panthep said that Advanced Info Service (AIS) had already informed TOT that it does not propose to be TOT's MVNO partner.

As part of the brand creation of the new 3G network in 18 provinces, TOT yesterday started giving away 300,000 3G SIM cards, of which 100,000 will be allocated to its new MVNO partners for them to give away to their customers to try the service.

TOT will give away the balance 200,000 cards on its own, of which 100,000 will be distributed in Bangkok, 90,000 in the provinces, and 6,000 at the Royal Flora 2011 Show. Of the total cards available at the flora fair, 5,000 are prepaid SIM cards.

In a related matter, TOT board over this week approved TOT to roll out 30 per cent of such 5,320 3G base stations in 18 provinces on the co-site basis.


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