National Telecom (NT), a merged unit of CAT Telecom and TOT, has yet to come up with a clear plan for its 5G business as its board remains unconvinced by management's proposal, according to a source at the board who requested anonymity.

The management’s proposal of capital expenditures and operating expenses for the 5G business has yet to be approved by the board almost 17 months after the 700-megahertz spectrum range and 26-gigahertz band were secured by CAT and TOT, respectively, in the 5G spectrum licence auction.

Meanwhile, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), said one of the most crucial items on the agenda for NT is to come up with a 5G business strategy and implement its plan with a clear roadmap.

He said social distancing measures have had an impact on NT’s operations and management, which has subsequently delayed the decision-making process.

The source said a feasibility proposal by NT’s management for the 5G business remains unconvincing in the eyes of the board.

The proposal involves 20-30 billion baht in capital expenditures and 40-50 billion baht in operating expenses for the 5G plan.

Capital expenditures are meant to help acquire, upgrade, and maintain physical assets such as property, plants, buildings and technology, and undertake new projects or investments.

Operational costs are the day-to-day expenses incurred to keep the business running, including the marketing budget.

The source said NT’s 5G business is costly.

For example, in last year’s auction, CAT Telecom won 20MHz of bandwidth on the 700Mhz spectrum range at a cost of 34.3 billion baht, 200% more expensive than the same range held by bigger rivals in the market.

TOT won 200MHz of bandwidth on 26GHz from the auction and the range is aimed at being used by the industrial sector, especially in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) area.

The source said NT is also in talks with two top mobile operators — Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) — for agreements on infrastructure-sharing on its 700MHz spectrum network, as well as roaming agreements to make use of their 2600MHz range.

The source noted NT’s board needs its management to cautiously explore all possible choices for 5G investments and operations to ensure a sustainable revenue in the long run.

“This requires prudent consideration to ward off damages that can hinder the company’s financial structure in the future,” the source said.

Referring to talks with AIS and TUC, the source suggested this has yet to be finalised due to some variables involved.


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