Thailand’s state-controlled operator TOT has put on hold plans to extend its 3G network due to concerns over financing.
The operator’s CEO Yongyuth Wattanasin has confirmed that TOT currently considers an infrastructure fund the most effective option for raising cash to fund the 3G build-out. This strategy was recently employed by rival operator True Corp.
However, True Corp’s plan may be derailed by an ownership dispute with state-owned CAT Telecom concerning 4500 towers that would form part of the infrastructure fund. TOT would not face such problems as it has substantial enough spectrum and network assets; Yongyuth notes “We could sell all our infrastructure to the fund in exchange for a stake in it.”
Currently TOT’s 3G network consists of 4800 base stations. The proposed THB30 billion network expansion would have nearly quadrupled this number, adding 15,000 more. However, government investment projects have saddled TOT with a THB38 billion tab – one that it is obliged to pick up by the policy that allows it to operate.
TOT was rumoured to be considering a 3G network sharing deal with market leading AIS; however the number one operator is now also reportedly weighing up the idea of an infrastructure fund.