Thailand’s largest operator, AIS, has resurrected plans to launch as a 3G MVNO on state-owned TOT’s network following the cancellation of the country’s 3G auctions last week. The move is seen as another victory for TOT, which, along with another state-owned-firm – CAT Telecom – managed to halt the 3G auction process in the courts by arguing that the current regulator had no authority to offer 3G licences and that their interests would be damaged. AIS is now expected to launch 3G services with TOT before the end of 2010, CEO Wichian Mektrakarn told Reuters. “Basically, our plan is to sell SIM cards for TOT, and another aspect is network roaming, which will enable our clients to use data services that run on TOT networks,” Wichian said. “Now we don’t have the auction, we’re going back to the previous plan.” AIS, which has more than 30 million subscribers and a market share of 44 percent, has set up two subsidiaries, which are applying to be MVNOs under TOT.

TOT is able to wholesale 3G services to MVNOs as – unlike private operators such as AIS – it already owns 1900MHz spectrum suitable for 3G. Although it only launched 3G services using the frequency late last year, Reuters notes that the cancelling of the 3G auctions now means TOT has regained its advantage over the private operators. On Tuesday, the government approved a budget of THB19.9 billion (US$650 million) for TOT to expand its 3G services on its existing 1900MHz frequency. With the need to now create a new regulator and re-start the entire 3G process from scratch, it has been suggested it could be more than two years before the country is back in the position to issue 3G licences to private operators.