True plans to launch 4G service in April
True Corp plans to launch 4G wireless broadband service on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum in Bangkok in April in a bid to steal the show from its rivals, which are expected to debut the 3G service on their 2.1GHz spectrum bands in the same month.
A True source said the company had already ordered imported 4G network equipment, which will utilise the 2.1GHz spectrum. It plans to launch the 4G service in a few commercial areas in Bangkok.
True subsidiary Real Future is one of the three holders of the 2.1GHz spectrum licences granted by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) last December. Under this technology-neutral licence, they can utilise any technologies to provide cellular service.
The other two licence holders are Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) of the largest cellular operator Advanced Info Service (AIS), and DTAC Network of the second largest cellular operator Total Access Communication (DTAC). All three licence holders are expected to kick off the 2.1GHz service in April.
AIS chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn said that at this stage, AIS has focused on the 3G-2.1GHz service and the nationwide 2.1GHz network rollout.
A telecom industry source believes True group will not launch the 4G service nationwide, but only in a few spots, due to the lack of commercial viability. Eventually it will have to launch the 3G service on the 2.1GHz spectrum. True and DTAC currently have considerable bandwidth - enough to enable them to offer 4G service in some areas. AIS recently said it needs more spectrum bandwidth to serve its future business plan. It is likely to join with its concession owner, TOT, in the future to offer the 4G service.
DTAC group holds 1,800 megahertz, 850MHz and 2.1GHz spectra, while True group has 2.1GHz and has partnered with CAT Telecom to offer 3G service on 850MHz. AIS holds 900MHz and 2.1GHz spectra. The 1,800MHz concession of AIS subsidiary Digital Phone Co will end this September, the same time as that of TrueMove of True.
Last year AIS, DTAC and TrueMove test-launched the non-commercial 4G service on their existing spectra with the NBTC's consent.
Last week True group called a "CEO Vision" internal meeting of 2,500 high-ranking executives. True chief executive officer Suphachai Chearavanont told the executives in the meeting to join forces to make True group the leader on all fronts, including the wireless service arena.
True has also sought a possible foreign partnership to bolster its strength. One likely suitor it is reportedly in talks with is telecom giant China Mobile. True's chief financial officer Noppadol Dej-udom declined to confirm the report about China Mobile, saying only that talks on a possible tie up with a foreign partner are ongoing.
"Choosing a lifelong spouse will take as long as it requires. We prefer to take as much as time needed to make the right decision on this important subject," Noppadol said.