Thailand state telco TOT’s CEO Montchai Noosong has told reporters that the long-delayed MVNO contract between AIS and TOT has finally been signed off by TOT and has been sent to the Attorney-General for approval.
The TOT-AIS tie up has been on and off since 2009, but the formal announcement was only made in September 2016. Since then, the two have been conducting trials.
At a press conference last month, Montchai told Disruptive.Asia that the delay was because of interference issues, as both operators have spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band.
However, one month later, Montchai now says the cause of the delay is no longer technical, but legal. Montchai said the delay was because many legal issues had to be sorted out first. He said he was confident that the AIS contract would be signed before the Dtac 2.3 GHz MVNO contract.
AIS CEO Somchai Lertsuthiwong said that he was confident the contract would be finalized soon (that is, before the end of this year). Somchai noted that AIS was already paying TOT for the testing phase that is currently underway.
The key issue is that both contracts are modelled after a deal by fellow state-telco CAT Telecom and True, and all the parties involved keep repeating the mantra that there is a prior case without looking into the details of that case.
The CAT-True MVNO arrangement sees CAT subcontracting True to build and operate its network, from which it then sells capacity back to True as an MVNO in what is effectively a backdoor concession. The National Anti Corruption Commission ruled that the deal was illegal back in 2012. So did the NBTC board. This only came to a head recently when NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit told his board that the secretariat cannot act on cases which involves a jail term of more than six months, to which the board, exasperated, ordered Takorn to file a complaint at the local police station.