Central Group, Thailand's largest retail conglomerate, is in talks with CAT Telecom to provide mobile phone service on behalf of the state enterprise.
The retail giant wants to lease CAT's bandwidth under a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model to add value to the retail business, said CAT chief executive Kittisak Sriprasert.
Two handset distributors, M Link Corporation and 365 Communication, are also keen to follow suit, he said.
An MVNO is a company that provides services but does not have its own mobile network.
Mr Kittisak said Central plans to bundle CAT's mobile promotional packages with the group's customer privileges for its retail stores and B2S bookstores. The benefits may also cover the Central credit card and the Robinson 1 Card.
Surin Ritteepamorn, chief executive of 365 Communication, said his firm plans to rent CAT capacity to provide cellular service to niche markets.
An MVNO should not rival big mobile operators but instead serve multiple niche markets, he said.
Such a model can sustain revenue growth even with just 100,000 subscribers, since it earns monthly fees from specific groups.
365 Communication has already been an MVNO of TOT 3G Co Ltd _ a 3G unit of TOT Plc, Thailand's other state telecom enterprise _ for three years.
TOT 3G has signed up five MVNOs to provide 3G service on the 2100-MHz spectrum: Samart i-Mobile, Loxley, IEC Technology, 365 Communications and M Consult.
Mr Surin said 365 now has 10,000 active subscribers on TOT's 3G network after receiving only 25,000 3G SIM cards from TOT.
"We need to explore all opportunities from many niche markets not served by other operators," he said.
For network expansion, Mr Kittisak said CAT has set aside 29 billion baht to expand its 3G network under partnership agreements, divided into two parts _ the first 14 billion for optical-fibre installation to serve BFKT, a subsidiary of True; and the rest to pay network rental fees to BFKT in the future.
The 29-billion-baht budget to expand the network must be approved by the Information and Communication Technology Ministry and the National Economic and Social Development Board before going to the cabinet for endorsement.
If the cabinet signs off, CAT can begin expansion and allocate the bandwidth to coming MVNOs providing service under the agreement, said Mr Kittisak.
About the author
- Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter