Bangkok Post – National Telecom investigating new business opportunities

Company keen to join smart meter project


State telecom enterprise National Telecom (NT) is eager to join the smart meter project operated by Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) and Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) by providing the two state enterprises with data communications services.

The move is an effort by NT to explore new business opportunities as it prepares to lose annual revenue of 40 billion baht next year with the expiry of some business agreements with private mobile phone operators. NT will also lose the rights to several spectrum ranges in 2025.

According to the state enterprise, creating new revenue streams is one of its critical goals this year. The other key agenda item concerns increasing the value of NT’s existing assets by turning it into a national telecom infrastructure provider, restructuring management, and splitting profitable units into new companies.

New chairman Nattapon Nattasomboon said NT approached MEA and PEA regarding their guidelines for the development of the smart meter project. Both enterprises are investing in the project on a phase-by-phase basis.

A smart meter is an electronic device that records relevant information, such as the consumption of energy, voltage levels, the current, and other power-related factors, and sends the information to the consumer and the suppliers of the electricity.

Mr Nattapon said NT would optimise its 700-megahertz spectrum network capacity to provide the connectivity to support the smart meter project.

NT hopes the electricity authorities will prioritise its participation in the project as it is a state-owned enterprise serving a national security purpose in the area of critical information infrastructure.

RESTRUCTURING

NT was formed through the merger of TOT and CAT Telecom. Prior to the merger, TOT partnered with Advanced Info Service (AIS) on TOT’s 2100MHz service offering. It also partnered with the company then known as Total Access Communication (DTAC) on TOT’s 2300MHz. NT’s right to use those spectrum ranges will expire in 2025.

Prior to the merger, CAT Telecom partnered with True Move H Universal Communication on CAT’s 850MHz service. NT’s rights to the spectrum expire in 2025.

Beyond 2025, NT will only have its telecom assets, most significantly its telecom towers, and will operate by utilising some of its other spectrum ranges such as 700MHz and 26GHz, which the state enterprise won in a licence auction that took place in February 2020.

Mr Nattapon said the annual revenue stream of around 40 billion baht derived from several existing partnership agreements with private operators will end once the agreements expire next year.

“The clock is ticking, we’ve no time for hesitation but have to urgently reengineer all operations and projects as well as improve the efficiency of the management structure.”

Mr Nattapon said several agendas are set to be actively promoted this year.

First, NT should develop its business as an infrastructure provider, sharing the facilities with private operators to provide their services, rather than focusing on providing its own business in a red ocean market.

NT now has telecom infrastructure, conduits and other assets such as buildings nationwide which have a combined value of more than 200 billion baht.

The enterprise also owns conduits that run along roads covering a distance of 4,360 kilometres nationwide, of which roughly 3,500km is within Bangkok with the remainder located in the provinces. The combined length of the conduits is 41,200km.

NT has cash flow amounting to roughly 100 billion baht.

The state enterprise plans to launch a single last mile service that will share its overhead single fibre-optic network with all telecom and broadcasting operators to access households.

Pilot projects have been developed along several routes including Narknivat Road and Khao San Road in Bangkok, along with an area of Pattaya. NT is set to implement the project on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok, which is a popular destination for foreign tourists.

Under the neutral last mile concept, all related parties have to jointly appoint a single company to become the sole last mile provider which will be responsible for establishing fibre connections to reach households. Telecom operators have to pay a rental fee to the single last mile provider at the standard rate.

Mr Nattapon said NT has to explore and seriously accelerate implementation of this project.

Second, NT has 16 senior executive vice-presidents which is too many for a telecom company. These positions are not all related to NT’s core businesses.

“It needed to be restructured to become more compact and flexible,” Mr Nattapon said.

NT is also in the process of reducing its headcount from the current level of 14,000 to 7,000 over the next few years through early retirement programmes.

Third, NT would have to clearly outline the plan to split its profitable businesses into new companies. Among the businesses that could potentially be spun off from NT is its data centre business.

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