Thailand’s state-owned TOT has called off talks with AIS to jointly operate a tower venture after its 2G concession with the market leader expired, saying such a venture “might not be the best course of action”.
AIS, which has a 46 per cent market share, proposed forming a 49:51 joint venture with TOT to manage the more than 13,000 towers under its 2G concession that expired on 30 September.
TOT acting president Monchai Noosong said it wants AIS to transfer all the towers to TOT to comply with the concession terms, the Bangkok Post reported. “We want AIS to transfer the towers and pay rental fees to us in exchange for tower use, instead of being our partner in jointly managing the infrastructure,” he said.
AIS had a 20-year concession to provide 2G mobile service on the 900MHZ band, but that was later extended to 25 years. TOT amended the concession seven times, with the most significant change being reducing the revenue-sharing payment to a flat 20 per cent.
Citing the amendments, the Supreme Court in 2006 found then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra guilty of abusing his power to benefit his own companies.
TOT said last week it is seeking THB70 billion ($1.95 billion) in compensation from AIS for the lower payments in the prepaid concession.
AIS CEO Somchai Lertsutiwong last week defended the changes, arguing that the amendments came after similar ones by dtac and True Move with their concession owner CAT Telecom, the Post said.
He said the amendments followed suggestions by the Council of State in 2001 that TOT and AIS amend the prepaid concession, which it said did not require cabinet approval.
The country’s telecoms regulator ordered AIS to continue serving the 2.4 million 2G customers for an additional four months to comply with customer retention regulations.
TOT is seeking an interim injunction against AIS using the disputed telecoms towers.