TOT, CAT merge to form National Telecom, 2 decades later


Thailand’s state-owned telecommunications operator TOT has finally completed a long-awaited merger with CAT Telecom, which aims to become one of the top three mobile service provider in the country by the end of the year.

Under the merger, the company has rebranded itself as National Telecom (NT) and will look to capitalize on overlapping administrative staff in departments such as finance, human resources, and legal.

Initially, the merger was made possible due to a strong private sector competition, especially within Thailand, with the approach mainly aimed toward reducing costs and streamlining operation; however, no staff cuts have been announced.

Wasting no time, NT has opened talks with Advanced Info Service (AIS) and True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) in hopes of infrastructure sharing on its 700-megahertz spectrum network as well as roaming agreements to make use of the 2600MHz range occupied by the two major operators.

If made possible, the agreements with both operators would bolster NT’s service quality and back-office efficiency cementing its vision of becoming a top three mobile operator contender by the end of 2021.

While the merger was made official this week, a full consolidation of the two organizations is expected to last 18 months.

NT assets comprise of 25,000 telecom towers, nine routes of submarine cables, total spectrum of 600MHz of bandwidth on six spectrum ranges, 4,000 kilometers of cable conduits, 4 million fiber-optics cores, 13 data centers and international call services.

TOT’s former chairman will become National Telecom’s acting CEO, as the company aims to boost its earnings quickly by tapping into the 5G network demand from public sector agencies.

Previously, TOT and CAT have been controlled by monopolies over domestic and international telephones services; however, that changed back in the 2000s when the country decided to open up its telecom market for outside competition, as well as from private sector players.

This, however, has led to a drastic drop in both companies’ earnings, as their combined market share of Thailand’s mobile communications remained steadfast around 2 percent to 3 percent, according to several studies.

This merger isn’t something new on the books, since discussions over it hovered back in the 1990s with consistent delays across the years. It was brought back into the limelight back in July of 2020 but was again put off due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to numbers by the ministry, CAT mobile service – My by CAT – has 2.5 million subscribers and TOT mobile has 180,000 subscribers.