Mon 16 Jul 2012
Filed under: Business / Trade
True Corporation has announced plans to jump into Myanmar’s emerging cable television market this year with a possible investment of 1 billion baht.
Thailand’s leading telecommunications firm also outlined a planned drive into Vietnam to expand its telecom footprint when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) kicks off effect in 2015.
Chief executive Suphachai Chearavanont said True expects to finalise the joint-venture plan with the Myanmar government on the cable-TV project this year.
“We plan to spend at least 1 billion baht on cable TV in Myanmar,” he told the Bangkok Post.
True will apply for a licence once the Myanmar government starts issuing them for cable-TV broadcasting.
Mr Suphachai said Thailand’s entertainment content is very popular in Myanmar.
“We’ll produce local-language programming in entertainment and international stations,” he said.
Mr Suphachai said True is also preparing to make inroads into the red-hot digital-TV fray.
“The move will complement our existing pay-TV services and open a wider opportunity to bring our content to free TV,” he said.
“We plan to become an integrated telecom service provider.”
True will apply for an infrastructure licence and a commercial digital-TV service licence to rent telecom networks to the operators as well as operate digital TV channels, said Mr Suphachai.
The company plans to apply for the licences from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) once it starts issuing them next year.
Mr Suphachai acknowledged that satellite- and digital-TV services will take 5-10 years to take up, while the mainstream pay TV will provide a more sustainable model of recurring fees.
Mr Suphachai said True’s cable-TV arm TrueVisions will introduce a prepaid service in high-definition platform this year as an anti-piracy measure.
“We hope to eliminate the threat from piracy with plans to replace analogue set-top boxes with digital ones, which should eliminate piracy on our cable system by 2013,” he said.
Mr Suphachai said TrueVisions’ revenue will exceed 10 billion baht this year, up from 9.7 billion last year, on improved ad revenue.
True is open to talks with any prospective company on joint bidding for the English Premier League (EPL) broadcasting rights next month, he said.
“We’re considering a possible collaboration to bid for EPL football matches from 2013-16, but on the strict condition that we have at least 50% of the broadcasting rights,” said Mr Suphachai.
InTouch, formerly known as Shin Corporation, recently announced plans to set up a business alliance for joint bidding for the EPL with three other companies including GMM Grammy Plc and RS Plc.
Earlier, TrueVisions insisted it would enter a bid for the three-year rights to broadcast the EPL solely without a partnership.
Mr Suphachai also said True is now ready to amend its third-generation (3G) network contracts with its concession owner CAT Telecom by eliminating the six issues raised by the NBTC regarding the contracts.
“The contract amendment will have no effect on our business and marketing plans,” he said.
Mr Suphachai said True is willing to amend its 3G contracts with CAT because the NBTC did not suggest the True-CAT contracts are illegal.
“The NBTC’s concerns involved some issues of the contracts violating the Telecommunications Act,” he said.
The NBTC last month said the True-CAT contracts violated Section 46 of the Frequency Allocation Act of 2010, which requires licence holders and spectrum owners including CAT to manage the spectrum rights on their own.
The regulator is reviewing the role of BFKT (Thailand), a unit of True subsidiary Real Future.
The NBTC questions whether BFKT (Thailand), which under the CAT-True agreement is the party responsible for procuring telecom towers and signal systems for the 3G network, is acting as a part of CAT’s operations and if all rules are being obeyed.
“We’re willing to allow CAT to buy back BFKT from us as the state telecom enterprise needs,” said Mr Suphachai.
An NBTC panel recently ruled BFKT could be in violation of the Telecommunications Business Act of 2001 by offering service without a proper licence.
True expects 4 million 3G subscribers for its TrueMove H service this year. It has almost 2 million customers now.