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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           26   July  2011

3G service in Thailand still stumbles

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Two of Thailand's three major mobile operators may be facing a legal stumbling block to their third-generation (3G) wireless broadband ambitions after a group warned against violations of concession agreements and telecom law.

The group comprised of specialists and lawyers said operators offering 3G service using high-speed packet access (HSPA) technology would be breaching their existing concessions, which permit them only 2G digital cellular service.

Advanced Info Service (AIS) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) are stepping up efforts to promote commercial 3G service on the HSPA platform after upgrading from 2G networks.

True Move is an exception, as it now offers 3G HSPA service on the CDMA network it took over from Hutch and not on its existing frequency.

Anuparb Thiralarp, an independent academic, said mobile operators are not direct licensees of the acting National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). Instead, they are operating via a concession system under the umbrella of TOT Plc and CAT Telecom, their real licensees and the owners of all frequencies.

Importantly, their concession terms stipulate they may only upgrade only from analog NMT to digital technology, he said. Other new services including GPRS, Edge and 3G HSPA are not included in the concessions.

However, Wichian Mektrakarn, the chief executive of AIS, expressed confidence that operators can provide commercial 3G HSPA service, saying the upgrade is in accordance with the concession terms.

He admitted that DTAC is a different case in that its commercial 3G HSPA service would be based on a frequency reallocation.

"DTAC has no choice but to forge ahead with its commercial 3G service to stay competitive with its rivals," he said.

Dr Anuparb added that the acting NBTC's move to issue usage licences, basically formal permission to start service on a specific frequency, is yet another anomaly for the industry.

But DTAC said the licences could allow it to provide commercial 3G service.

Given that TOT and CAT are the frequencies owners and direct licensees, DTAC must receive approval from its concession owner CAT before moving ahead with its commercial 3G service.

Formal establishment of the NBTC is expected soon after screening the 11 members.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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