Telenor Committed To Helping DTAC Fund 3G

Telenor of Norway, the major shareholder of No. 2 mobile operator DTAC, is still committed to five billion baht in grants so that the Thai unit can proceed with its third-generation (3G) investment plan.
    Sigve Brekke, the CEO of Telenor Asia, said Telenor brushed off the risk of an economic recession and is continuing its investment plan in 3G mobile broadband projects for DTAC next year.
    “We will definitely focus on 3G services as a business opportunity next year,” said Mr Brekke, who headed DTAC until taking the regional post in September.
    Given DTAC’s financial health and technology advantage over its rivals on 3G, Mr Brekke said Telenor saw no reason to delay the project.
    DTAC is on the verge of upgrading its existing analogue 850 Megahertz frequency to high-speed download packet access (HSDPA) technology. The bandwidth provides wider coverage capacity with lower investment costs.
    The company has 10 billion baht in cash flow from operations this year.
    “We want DTAC to be the sole operator offering 3G and gain a foothold in the market for at least one year,” he said.
    Mr Brekke now oversees Telenor’s four Asian units – Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand – with a combined 65 million subscribers.
    Tore Johnsen, his successor at DTAC, recently decided to postpone the launch of commercial 3G services beyond the second quarter of next year.
    Mr Brekke said he believed the change in policy for Thailand was based on business sense and not on the global financial crisis. He also added the delay is simply to ensure that DTAC provides perfect 3G services for customers.
    Under the initial 3G investment scheme, DTAC plans to introduce 3G services in three phases. The 1.2-billion-baht first phase covers Bangkok through 700 to 800 base stations. The second phase will cover Greater Bangkok as well as Chon Buri and Phuket, and the final phase covers the rest of the country.
    The first phase will focus on wireless broadband over laptop computers. Services will be expanded nationwide in the second stage to 3G handsets.
    Mr Brekke said senior Telenor executives were scheduled to attend a meeting on 3G business plans and marketing to be held by DTAC in Bangkok this week.

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