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Four consortia enter bids for Thai state operator’s 3G contract

Thailand’s state-owned operator TOT is inviting bidders for a contract to build its 3G network infrastructure, and the auctions have thus far attracted four consortia of vendors.

The four groups in question are:

  • SL, comprised of Samart, NSN and Huawei;
  • AU, consisting of Alcatel Lucent and Ucom;
  • Ericsson Associate Engineering; and
  • Forth Corp/ZTE.

The contract will be the biggest project that TOT has undertaken in ten years if estimates of its value are accurate; reports have placed its value at THB17.44 billion (US$570 million).

The state-owned operator will likely spend up to a week assessing the various merits - both commercial and technical - of the four groups before announcing which have met the requisite criteria. The contract is expected to be awarded in February.

Thailand’s 3G auctions have become an ongoing saga of endless delays and complications, leading some industry observers to the state’s involvement in the process. TOT is currently the only operator that holds 3G spectrum, essentially giving it a monopoly on 3G services in the face of the stalled auctions.

TOT is building out 3G infrastructure with the intention of renting spectrum to other operators and MVNOs; reportedly, it has five clients already waiting to rent the relevant spectrum to offer 3G services in Bangkok.

The terms of the contract indicate that following its signing, the network must go live in Bangkok and the surrounding area - along with thirteen other Thai provinces - within 180 days. The deadline for coverage to then be extended nationwide will be 360 days.

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