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Thai operator to pick two of three short-listed equipment vendors in the next two weeks.

Total Access Communication PCL, Thailand’s second largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, plans to invest around THB11 billion ($319 million) next year to introduce third generation services and expand 2G services, said newly-appointed chief executive Tore Johnsen.

“The investment budget next year has yet to be approved by the company’s board, but it is roughly estimated to be in the same range as this year at around THB11 billion,” Johnsen told Dow Jones Newswires in a recent interview.

“We have to balance (the investment) between 2G and 3G. The exact split has yet to be finalized.”

The company, usually known as DTAC, said in August that the rollout of 3G base stations for nationwide coverage will cost approximately THB5 billion.

DTAC will pick one or two of three short-listed vendors for 3G equipment in the next couple of weeks to help establish infrastructure for the launch of 3G services in Bangkok and other cities such as Chonburi and Phuket, said Johnsen.

The company has said the shortlisted suppliers are Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson, and Huawei.

Thailand’s telecommunications regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission, recently gave DTAC permission to import equipment for upgrading its existing networks on the 850 megahertz frequency to the 3G technology.

DTAC has yet to conclude funding plans to finance its investment but has ruled out possibility of tapping the equity market amid tumbling stock prices around the globe.

“I don’t think about that for the time being,” Johnsen said.

The company is leaving the door open for debt issuance as it has filed an application for a bond offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company is looking to offer new services such as mobile banking and it is open to working with new partners to jointly explore business opportunities, said Johnsen.

But DTAC doesn’t plan to enter the fixed-line business or diversify into being a content provider, he said.

Johnsen expects competition in Thailand’s mobile sector to remain intense.

The market is approaching saturation but he hopes the company will be able to gain more market share in the coming year, thanks to service quality and marketing campaigns.

Johnsen declined to provide a market share target or any performance guidance ahead of the release of the company’s third quarter earnings, slated for Oct 27.

DTAC had a 30.5% market share with 17.4 million subscribers at the end of June.

Source: Total Telecom



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