Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thailand Proposes New Wholesale-Based Telecom Framework

AB mag 2014 0910 Infographic2
source: ASEANBriefing
The Thai government now hopes to create a different wholesale infrastructure entity to support fixed and mobile telecommunications services in Thailand.

To be sure, wholesale infrastructure already is wholly-owned by the government.

Two firms--TOT and CAT--own facilities and issue concessions to private operators to use the assets.

In that framework, all retail providers compete without benefit or detriment of network asset ownership. 

Some might argue the new national network will allow faster investment in new facilities in some areas by increasing the expected financial return from investing in new assets.

But the change might be unsettling for TOT and CAT, the two Thai state-owned firms that formerly owned infrastructure. So far, it appears the new wholesale entity will control the wide area optical backbone and tower networks.

That might mean the existing fixed local access network might remain the province of TOT. Likewise, it is not yet clear whether CAT's gateway and international traffic functions will remain with CAT.

Much depends on which assets are transferred to the new wholesale entity, and how the terms, conditions and price of wholesale access are set. In what might be termed a "worse case" scenario, CAT and TOT both largely become retail operators rather than wholesale providers.

And, if so, how well might they handle the challenge? To the extent that new primarily retail function develops. do the firms possess the right mix of human and other assets to compete effectively as "virtual operators?"

The proposed “national backbone holding company” could inherit the 150,000 kilometers of optical fiber owned by state-owned operators TOT and CAT.

The new wholesale company might also incorporate about 50,000 km of optical fiber owned by private players and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

The holding company would have separate telecom tower and fiber optic network operations, and would presumably result in all retail providers in Thailand renting transport and access from the wholesale company.

Internet access in Thailand is about 29 percent, and an estimated 30,000 villages have no access to the Internet at all.

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