National Telecom (NT) has yet to hammer out a clear 5G strategic business plan despite having paid the first instalment of the 700-megahertz licence fee, according to a source from the company’s board who requested anonymity.
According to the source, during a board meeting on March 17 NT’s management proposed an updated business plan to the board, including its ongoing discussions with two major mobile operators — Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) — for business partnerships.
The board members, especially chairman ML Chayotid Kridakon, pressured management into seeking alternative ways for a strategic move towards 5G to ensure optimum benefits, the source said.
According to the source, there are two issues of concern regarding 5G business for NT, a merged unit of state telecom enterprises TOT and CAT Telecom.
First, despite running commercial mobile businesses for decades, TOT and CAT Telecom have failed to attain crucial achievements in the market, the source said.
Before merging into NT, the two only had around 2.5 million mobile subscribers in total.
“The partnership deal talks with the two carriers have yet to shed light on how NT would gain a revenue stream in the long run,” the source said.
Second, NT secured 20MHz of bandwidth on the 700MHz range from the 5G spectrum auction held in February 2020 at a steep cost of 34 billion baht.
In contrast, NT’s key three rivals obtained 20MHz of bandwidth on the same spectrum from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s (NBTC) allocation in 2019 at a cost of 17 billion baht each.
The three companies are TUC, Total Access Communication (DTAC) and AIS subsidiary Advanced Wireless Network.
This happened when the previous regime invoked Section 44 to let operators buy into the 700MHz band in exchange for extending 900MHz licence payment terms for another five years.
On March 16, NT paid 3.6 billion baht for the first instalment of the 700MHz licence fee, including VAT. Ten instalment payments are required for the spectrum licence.
The move took place although NT has yet to have a clear business plan on how to effectively run 5G business for long-term revenue stream, according to the source.