CAT settles up with True as dtac prepares for a struggle

CAT settles up with True as dtac prepares for a struggle

Thailand’s state-owned CAT Telecom has settled a decade-long dispute with True just days after resolving a similarly lengthy spat with market leader AIS.

As part of the settlement, CAT has withdrawn its six open lawsuits against True, while the latter operator has also pulled its two counter-claims from the country’s Administrative Court. The companies have agreed that they will no longer raise any of the points from these cases.

To resolve the disagreement, CAT Telecom will pay True THB1.96 billion (US$62.3 million) to True, and will in turn receive THB1.86 billion from the private operator. The state enterprise has made strides towards conflict resolution with several operators as it looks to merge with fellow state-owned provider TOT.

Just a week ago, CAT Telecom settled a long-running tower leaseback dispute with AIS, in another step towards streamlining its liability exposure. In January, it resolved several clashes with third-placed operator dtac relating to operating concessions.

For its part, dtac could do with the relief – ratings agency Fitch has predicted choppy waters for the operator as it looks to claw back market share. Despite slowing its subscriber losses and deploying a 2.3GHz network, it faces the prospect of AIS and True increasing capex for their 2.6GHz networks and aggressively deploying 5G.

This will place the market leading pair even further ahead in terms of network quality, which is becoming a decision-defining metric for subscribers in choosing a network – particularly as tariffs are now more closely aligned.

AIS is planning to hike its capex from THB23 billion (US$729.6 million) last year to THB35 billion in 2020 – as opposed to dtac cutting its expenditure from THB17.8 billion to somewhere between THB8 billion and THB10 billion. Additionally, problems with signal interference have forced dtac to push back investment into the 850MHz and 900MHz bands until next year.

Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) held a multiband 5G spectrum auction in February this year, bringing in around THB100.5 billion (US$3.2 billion).

This included spectrum in the 700MHz, 2600MHz and 26GHz bands, with AWN and CAT respectively winning one and two concessions in the 700MHz band for THB17.15 billion per licence.

The Bangkok Post has now reported that digital terrestrial TV (DTT) providers are returning their 700MHz spectrum so that it can be repurposed for telecoms use early next year. The regulator has therefore issued a notice that DTT services may be disrupted from next month.

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