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Junta may have to fix AIS 2G issue

Posted by pakin On March - 9 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will ask the junta to exercise its sweeping powers to rescue 8 million stranded users of Advanced Info Service’s 2G network if a meeting today fails to prevent service disruption to these customers when AIS has to switch off its 900-megahertz service.

Takorn Tatasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said its telecom committee yesterday declined to grant AIS’s request to allow it to continue providing second-generation cellular service on the 900MHz spectrum.

The service will shut down on Monday when the NBTC awards a 900MHz licence to True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) of True Corp.

According to the rules that governed last year’s auction of licences on the spectrum, AIS has to switch off its 2G service once the NBTC awards one of the licences. Two companies won licences at the auction, True Corp and Jasmine International.

TUC has informed the committee that it will pay the Bt8.04-billion first instalment of the licence fee and place the bank guarantees for the remaining instalments on Friday.

The committee ordered the NBTC’s staff to call the parties including TUC, TOT, AIS and its affiliate Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) to an urgent meeting today to brainstorm a way to save all 2G users.

This order followed TUC’s proposal to AIS and AWN to offer AIS the use of its 900MHz spectrum for the remaining 8.8 million 2G users, but AIS would have to pay Bt450 million a month for three months.

The committee acknowledged the proposal and asked NBTC staff to handle the issue and submit the resolution to the committee again this Friday.

The fee is based on the Bt76.3 billion that True paid for the 15-year 900MHz licence, Takorn said.

The NBTC wants AIS to use 10MHz of Jas’s bandwidth and 10MHz of TUC’s to provide 2G service for its customers. AIS is expected to pay about Bt450 million to TUC and Bt420 million to Jas.

If AIS uses Jas’s spectrum before the NBTC grants the licence to Jas, AIS has to pay for the use of Jas’ spectrum to the NBTC first and pay Jas later when Jas gets its licence.

The NBTC will pass the money to the state.

Takorn said that if there is no resolution to the matter, the NBTC would ask the military’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order to step in. It would ensure that all 2G users can continue to use their phones until they move to another operator.

Wilai Keangpradoo, senior vice president for public relations at AIS, said the company had many options to protect its 2G-900MHz users including roaming them on Total Access Communication’s 2G-1,800MHz network.

They recently reached an agreement to ensure that all users will not be affected.

Of the 8.8 million users of its 2G-900MHz service, 8 million are AWN customers roaming with AIS.

Recently, AIS asked the NBTC for an extension for its 8.8 million users by using the 900MHz spectrum range that Jas Mobile Broadband of Jasmine International won at auction. However, Jas has not yet paid the first instalment of the upfront fee for this licence.

Takorn said the NBTC was still waiting for Jas to pay before the due date of March 21. Jas has said it will inform the NBTC of its intentions before March 18.

TRUE MOVE H Universal Communication (TUC) aims to become the top dog in mobile-phone coverage on all frequencies by investing Bt57 billion over three years.

“We expect to see revenue from our mobile-phone services grow more than 17.3 per cent this year.

“We are also aiming to secure a market share of at least 30 per cent, up from the current 21 per cent, within three years,” Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive officer of True Group, said yesterday.

The capital expenditure budget will be financed by a capital increase from major shareholders, supplier credit, loans and cash.

This year will see the company investing Bt40 billion, of which Bt36 billion will go to installing 20,000 base stations for the 900-megahertz network and Bt4 billion to add 3,000 base stations to its current 22,000 base stations for the 1,800MHz and 2.1-gigahertz networks to cover 98 per cent of the population.

Its third-generation network on 850MHz will run on 16,000 base stations.

True will also seek new users shifting from Advanced Info Service’s the 2G service after launching 2G and 4G services on 900MHz this month.

“We plan to pay the first instalment [of its upfront fee for the 900MHz licence] and place bank guarantees in two weeks,” he said after TUC signed letters of guarantee with six banks for Bt73.04 billion.

The guarantors are Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Thai) with half of the total, Bangkok Bank, Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank with Bt10.5 billion each, Krungthai Bank with Bt4 billion and Kiatnakin Bank with Bt3 billion.

The five Thai banks insisted that they had no problems with the Bank of Thailand’s single lending limit and could continue to support True in the future.

Arthid Nanthawithaya, chief executive officer of Siam Commercial Bank, said ICBC (Thai) offered to provide 50 per cent of the total guarantee. The Thai banks agreed with the proposal because then they could have more room to assist True if the customer required additional support from financial institutions.

ICBC (Thai) asked the BOT if ICBC Hong Kong could open a standby letter of credit for ICBC (Thai) to support the letter of guarantee to True. Under Thai broadcasting regulations, a letter of guarantee must be issued by a local bank.

Zhigang Li, chairman of ICBC (Thai), said the bank was a believer in the Thai economy and Thailand was a top travel destination for Chinese tourists. The bank is confident that True will become the leader in 3G and 4G in Thailand and the bank will have further cooperation with True Corp in developing telecommunications in Thailand.

The other winner of a 900MHz licence at an auction late last year, Jas Mobile Broadband, is facing difficulties in submitting its letter of guarantee by March 21 because the company has not submitted a new business plan yet.

Chansak Fuangfu, senior executive vice president of Bangkok Bank, said the bank had been contacted by Jas Mobile Broadband but had not made any decision on what to do.

It has to consider three points – Jas’s business plan, the position of the regulator, and other conditions such as collateral.

Another customer, CTH, which failed to secure the broadcasting rights for the English Premier League, continues to pay its debts as usual. However, the situation has changed, so the business plan of CTH should be adjusted, he said.

THE COUNTRY’S largest music and entertainment giant, GMM Grammy, plans to cut more than 100 jobs as cost management efforts and restructuring of the organisation into a provider of total media solutions, according to a source at the company.

“This appears to be the biggest lay-offs at the company in the last seven years,” the source, who did not want to be named, told The Nation.

The 100 employees will be laid off with effect from tomorrow. GMM Grammy is reportedly also considering cutting more jobs from its current staff strength of 3,000 employees.

The affected staff will get full compensation under labour laws plus an extra three months of salary due to the urgent notice.

The redundancy follows slide in the performance of its business units such as music, digital content production, public relations and accountancy. The company has been restructuring its internal management since the last two years in transforming the music and entertainment-based company into a total media solutions provider.

Under the restructuring plan, the company has set up a content-marketing unit to work with other departments to optimise and monetise content through various media platforms, both at home and overseas. The new department is also working closely with clients and sponsors to design and develop TV and radio programmes, film and marketing activities to engage with target audiences.

In line with those activities, last year the company decided to exit non-core business, selling its shares in SE-Education, Post Publishing, Matichon and Index Creative Village. The company also sold its magazine business to C True, which is majority-owned by Thai AirAsia chief executive officer Tassapon Bijleveld.

However, the source insisted that the recent move was not related to its terrestrial-based digital TV businesses – GMM 25 and One channel – who are seeing a boost in popularity and advertising revenue.

In a previous interview, Paiboon Dumrongchaitham, chairman of the music and entertainment giant, said he was impressed with the performance of both digital TV stations.

“Although its digital-TV business is still suffering from the huge investment cost of content production, the ratings and audience share of both One and GMM 25 channels have continued to rise after the revamp of its programming with prime-time soap operas and situation comedies,” he

Uber makes first two-wheeler foray

Posted by pakin On February - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

UBER OFFERED its first motorbike taxi service yesterday, launching a pilot scheme in Bangkok, which could spread across Asia as it takes on chief regional rival Grab Taxi.

Motorbikes have long been a popular commuting option in |the Thai capital, which has horrendous traffic jams due to increased car ownership and poor city planning.

Ubiquitous motorbike taxi drivers, found at stands across the city wearing bright-orange jackets, weave in and out of stalled traffic with both skill and knuckle-whitening speed.

An Uber motorbike that collects passengers from their office or home could prove popular with commuters.

But Uber will be up against both Singapore-based Grab Taxi, which began offering a Bangkok motorbike service alongside its cabs last year, and the tens of thousands of regular motorbike taxi drivers who jealously guard their patches.

“I’m really excited to say Thailand is the first country to launch a two-wheeled motorcycle product in all of our cities,” Douglas Ma, Uber’s head of Asia expansion, told reporters.

The US company has become one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, worth an estimated $50 billion (Bt1.7 trillion) and with a presence in 68 countries. But it has faced regulatory hurdles and protests from established taxi operators in most locations where it has launched.

Both Uber and Grab Taxi have shaken up the taxi industry in Bangkok, providing an alternative to the capital’s often-mercurial cabbies, who routinely decline fares or refuse to use their meters.

The company will initially roll out the bikes in three commercial districts and says the fares should be cheaper than regular motorbike taxis.

Uber will focus on Thailand but does not rule out launching similar services in other traffic-clogged Asian megacities like Jakarta and Manila.

“This is the first time we’re doing it in any market in the world, so our hope is to develop it and innovate it,” Ma said.

“If it makes sense, absolutely we want to look at other markets.”

In the thousands

Ma declined to say how many motorbike drivers the company had already signed up but said it was in the thousands.

At a stand in the commercial area of Chidlom, motorbike taxi driver Winai Bunprueng said he was unlikely to join up.

“If I joined the app and I refused to go, they would reprimand or sack me, but for me now, if I can’t agree with passengers on the prices, I won’t go,” said Winai, 37.

Chalerm Changthongmadan, head of the Association of Taxi Motorcyclists of Thailand, said he was concerned by the arrival of start-up competitors.

“I think it will bring conflict among people who do these jobs,” he said.

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