True, AIS eye CAT frequencies
Operators say they intend muscling in on bands now used by their rivals
Published on January 7, 2008
The battle lines for cellular frequencies were drawn when True Move and Advanced Info Service (AIS) advised the telecom regulator about their intent to take over some bands that belong to CAT Telecom but are being used by their competitors.
According to True Move's letter sent to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on December 4, it wants to replace CAT in using certain bands on the 1800MHz and 800MHz spectra for commercial purposes.
The bands are being used by Total Access Communication (DTAC) to offer cellular service under a concession from CAT.
True Move cited the NTC's regulations for frequency licence transfer and frequency sharing to stake claims on CAT's bands. Telecom operators are allowed to seek the NTC's permission either to transfer the rights and duties of a spectrum to other operators, or to use other operators' spectra in place of the existing users.
True Move has 12 million customers and has mention-ed many times that it wants additional frequencies to
ease the congestion on its
existing 12.5MHz of bandwidth in its 1,800MHz spectrum.
DTAC has become the target, since it has a large chunk of 50MHz bandwidth in the 1800MHz spectrum.
DTAC chief executive Sigve Brekke said last week that DTAC was making use of both the 1800MHz and 800MHz frequencies, and nobody could claim frequencies that were already occupied.
"I have had a discussion with CAT on this issue, and they have the same view as DTAC. If True or anyone else is trying to take parts of our frequencies, we will definitely defend our rights," he said.
The NTC has already made a public announcement of True Move's request and has asked affected cellular operators to share ideas and defend their frequency ownership rights by January 31. After that the NTC will take time to consider the cases before making a final decision on the matter.
NTC member Sudharma Yoonaidharma said any operator could refer to the regulations but everything must proceed according to the regulations.
True Move also notified the NTC on December 14 that it wants to replace CAT in owning bands of the 1800MHz spectrum being used by True Move itself.
A CAT source wonders if True Move is trying to free itself from its concession.
Athueck Asvanund, vice chairman of True Corp, claims that the move responds to an amendment in the frequency-allocation law.
He said the amendment requires the user and owner of a frequency to be the same entity. He is concerned that the clause could create possible legal trouble for True Move and also other cellular operators when the amendment is passed into law.
TOT Plc and CAT are the legal owners of the cellular operators' frequencies.
AIS also informed the NTC on December 25 that it wants to acquire certain bands in the 800MHz spectrum of CAT, which are being used by DTAC and Hutchison-CAT.
AIS president Wichian Mektrakarn said the extra frequency bands would enhance AIS's existing 900MHz cellular service. AIS has about 24 million subscribers, while Hutch has some 800,000.
Brekke of DTAC said it would be better for all to wait for the NTC to finish drafting the national frequency plan, which is expected to be issued at the end of this year, before all can start talking about new frequency apportionment.
"The NTC's upcoming national frequency plan will look at a more efficient frequency allocation. We are more than willing to sit down and discuss how all the operators can benefit from a new frequency allocation. A single operator cannot start claiming frequencies without this being a part of the process," he said.