Extend-a-signal: NT tunes in for spectrum band extension

National Telecom (NT) is poised to seek an extension from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to continue utilising three spectrum bands beyond their expiration in September 2025. The requested extension, spanning 90 days, aims to ensure a seamless transition for NT’s current customers to alternative bands.

NT intends to maintain operations on the 850MHz, 2100MHz, and 2300MHz bands, critical for its mobile services. These bands have been used not only by NT but also by major telecom operators through partnership agreements over the past decade.

Colonel Sanphachai Huvanandana, NT’s president, stressed that more than 100,000 customers currently rely on the 3G wireless broadband service provided on NT’s 850MHz network. Shifting to the 700MHz band will require these customers to upgrade their mobile devices to 4G handsets.

True Corporation has around 17 million customers connected to NT’s 850MHz network through a partnership agreement. These customers are not expected to face disruptions, as True Corporation will transfer them to its other bands.

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Post-September 2025, NT will retain control over only the 700MHz band. NT’s mobile service brand, “My by NT,” has 1.7 million subscribers, although the state agency has yet to launch its 700MHz mobile phone service.

The formation of NT resulted from the merger of state telecom entities TOT and CAT Telecom. Prior to the merger, CAT secured 20MHz of bandwidth on the 700MHz band through a 2020 auction, which was divided into two parts. NT will operate 10MHz of this bandwidth for its 700MHz service, with the remaining part transferred to Advanced Wireless Network (AWN), a subsidiary of Advanced Info Service (AIS).

Network support

Last year, NT and AIS entered into agreements for telecom equipment rental on NT’s 700MHz spectrum and nationwide roaming, aiming to enhance and expand the 4G/5G capabilities of both companies. AWN is tasked with establishing a 4G/5G network on the 700MHz spectrum, comprising 13,500 base stations within two years. This network will support NT’s provision of mobile phone services, including 4G and 5G, to its customers.

Col. Sanphachai noted that the NBTC has instructed NT to formulate a plan for migrating customers from the three expiring spectrum ranges and to specify its business operations post-expiry. This comprehensive plan must be submitted to the regulator by August 2024.

The migration of customers from these spectrum bands will not only affect NT’s 1.7 million existing customers but also numerous mobile phone subscribers across the market. This is because parts of the mobile phone traffic managed by AIS and True Corporation are linked to these bands through partnership agreements.

To facilitate the transition, NT has developed an over-the-air (OTA) system designed to upgrade customers’ SIM cards from 2G or 3G to enable access to the 4G system, reported Bangkok Post.

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