Three NT board members step down

Three board members of National Telecom (NT) have resigned as the company is still stuck in limbo about its plan to move its 5G business forward.

The trio are ML Chayotid Kridakon, the board chairman, and two directors Ariya Banomyong and Pongsit Chaichutpornsuk, according to an NT source who requested anonymity.

ML Chayotid submitted his resignation letter through the board's secretary in July, followed by the other two.

Mr Ariya and Mr Pongsit were among four people added to the board in April. ML Chayotid was among the first batch of five nominated as board members in January this year when NT was formed through the merger of CAT Telecom and TOT, both state telecom enterprises.

The source said Mr Ariya, who was the former president of Channel 3 operator BEC World Plc, was invited by ML Chayotid to join the NT board to streamline operations through the firm's five core business groups, particularly digital services, innovation and engineering.

The source said NT has been facing several critical challenges, including 5G business operations through the 700-megahertz spectrum range, and new businesses that could create future revenue streams.

NT also has almost 17,000 employees and downsizing is needed to bring that down to around 6,000 in the next few years through an early retirement incentive programme at a cost of around 20 billion baht, the source noted.

The source indicated that NT is in talks with Advanced Info Service and True Move H Universal Communication over a proposed partnership through NT's 700-MHz band investment with their 2600-MHz networks and cellular stations. However, the talks have not yet reached the final stage.

NT needs to find ways to capitalise on the 700MHz spectrum it occupies through CAT Telecom, which won 20MHz of bandwidth on the range at a cost of 34.3 billion baht via the 5G spectrum licence auction in February last year. It was 200% more expensive than the same range held by bigger rivals in the market through past auctions.

NT is looking at initially budgeting 20 billion baht for the network expansion.

NT still has an unclear plan on how to ensure a sustainable revenue stream from 5G business and it needs to find new businesses that could help boost its earnings, especially after 2025, when its existing deals on spectrum usage with other operators expire, the source said. The source said NT must prove that it can survive on its own two feet.

NT may not rush to invest in 5G unless it can be sure about the prospects of returns on its investment.

"The most suitable step by NT from now to 2025 is to proceed with small and medium-sized investment, particularly infrastructure-sharing business with other private firms, as NT holds a variety of telecom infrastructure nationwide," the source added.

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