July 28, 2014 00:00
By Usanee Mongkolporn
The junta is seeking ways to help the two struggling state telecom enterprises, TOT and CAT Telecom, overcome the competition and one of the ideas being considered is to amalgamate them.
A Finance Ministry source said last week that if this military government with absolute power cannot merge them, there would be no opportunity at all in the future under civilian governments to see their consolidation.
The ministry is expected to release the names of new TOT directors this week. General Surapong Suwannaat, deputy joint chief of staff, is expected to be appointed chairman.
The ministry recently selected 15 CAT directors, including General Sirichai Distakul, assistant Army chief, as chairman. The board has already instructed the management to finish CAT’s rehabilitation plan and submit it within 15 days.
TOT has a workforce of 16,000, while CAT has 6,000. CAT has some 2,000 telecommunications towers and some 20,000 kilometres of fibre-optic networks.
The tally does not include the assets under build-operate-transfer concessions granted to Total Access Communication and TrueMove. CAT disputes the ownership of many of the towers under these deals.
TOT has about 12,000 towers and some 100,000km of fibre-optic networks.
The Information and Communications Technology will soon call a meeting with the Finance Ministry and the State Enterprise Policy Office to draw up a clear survival plan for TOT and CAT.
Methini Thepmani, permanent secretary of the ICT Ministry, said both ministries would discuss the clear roles of TOT and CAT in the future and how to prevent redundant investment.
She thinks both state enterprises should act as national network providers by leasing their vast infrastructure to companies.
Recently Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, said the NBTC plans to require winners of its future telecom spectrum licence auctions to give priority to TOT and CAT’s infrastructure when they expand their networks.
This is aimed at helping them become real national network providers.
The NBTC has informed the junta about the proposal, which would cover all future licence auctions, including those for the 1,800- and 900-megahertz frequencies.