Thailand's TAC Taps Nokia for $50M GSM Upgrade

Thai cellular phone operator Total Access Communication PCL (TAC) has signed an agreement with Nokia Corp. to upgrade its 1.8GHz GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network at a cost of US$50 million [M], the companies said in a statement Friday.

The upgrade is being implemented by Espoo, Finland-based Nokia, which has been the main equipment supplier to TAC since 1994.

Following the network upgrade, TAC will be able to offer mobile Internet services based upon WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data), which almost doubles the speed at which data is transmitted in the network, the statement said.

Thailand's mobile phone market has about 3 million [M] subscribers, and is becoming more competitive, partly due to the presence of foreign investors in the market.

TAC is 30 percent owned by Norway's Telenor AS. Of the other two main players, Advanced Info Service PLC (AIS) is 20 percent owned by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Telekom Malaysia Bhd. owns 40 percent of Digital Phone Co.

AIS and TAC between them currently control an estimated 90 percent of Thailand's cellular market.

Last week, France Telecom SA's Orange PLC subsidiary announced its first investment in Thailand's telecommunications market with the purchase of a 34 percent stake in cellular startup Wireless Communications Services Co. Ltd. (WCS). [See "Orange Starts Asian Expansion in Thailand," Oct. 2].

TAC, in Bangkok, can be reached at +66-2-202-8000, or via the Web at http://www.tac.co.th/. Nokia, in Espoo, Finland, is at +358-91-8071 or at http://www.nokia.com/.

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