True, CAT to wind up CDMA network in March
True Corp and CAT Telecom will switch off their separate CDMA (code division multiple access) cellular networks nationwide at the end of March, ending more than 12 years of the CDMA cellular business in the Thai market.
Adhiruth Thotaveensaksuk, managing director for the mobile-phone business at True Corp, said yesterday that there were about 40,000 subscribers in the CDMA network in 25 provinces under True management at present.
"We have informed the subscribers about our plan to switch off the service," he said.
The switch-off was postponed from the original date of January 27 as CAT Telecom was not yet ready to shut down its CDMA network in 52 provinces.
Hong Kong telecom operator Hutchison Telecom entered Thailand in 2000. It entered a joint venture with CAT to set up Hutchison CAT Wireless Multimedia (Hutchison-CAT) to market CDMA mobile service in 25 provinces under the Hutch brand. CAT has leased that network from BFKT (Thailand), which was earlier wholly owned by Hutchison, to provide service. In 2003, CAT also installed its own CDMA network in 52 provinces to market the service on its own.
The Hutch service boosted its heavy call promotion to draw in a huge number of subscribers quickly against the predominant three GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular operators. Its subscriber numbers peaked at 1 million many years ago.
But in 2010, CAT decided to take over Hutch's telecom businesses in Thailand, including its network in 25 provinces, for Bt7.5 billion. The takeover plan won Cabinet approval. After their failure to reach a final price agreement, the state agency changed its mind, paving the way for True Group to acquire Hutch's businesses in 2011.
True Corp expect 6 million customers for its two third-generation services, Real Move on the 850-megahertz band and the upcoming Real Future service on 2.1 gigahertz. The target number does not include customers who will migrate from TrueMove to Real Move or Real Future when TrueMove's concession ends this September.
Both Real Move and Real Future are wholly owned subsidiaries of True. Currently Real Move, which has about 3 million subscribers, provides the 3G-850MHz service for the TrueMove H brand under CAT's resale contract. The number of its 3G-850MHz base stations will rise to 13,000 nationwide this quarter, from the present 10,000, which will be able to serve 13.5 million customers.
True's Real Future holds a 2.1GHz spectrum licence granted by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission last month. Real Future is expected to launch the service by the second quarter of this year. It has requested 4 million mobile phone numbers from the NBTC for the service.