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NEWS UPDATES 2 August 2010

Legal issues arise in Thai telecoms sector

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Legal issues are multiplying like rabbits as Thailand tries to get into the 3G spectrum for its mobile phone industry. The government says it will raise these issues with the private operators today. Thailand lags behind most Asean countries in moving to the 3G spectrum.

The National Telecommunications Committee (NTC) says it lacks authority to grant new licenses in the existing 2G spectrum or replace them with a 15-year license per the economic cabinet’s agreement. Prasert Apipunya, NTC vice-secretary, said the 850-megahertz spectrum cost more than four times the 2100-megahertz spectrum, without taking into account the lump-sum entrance fee demanded by the government.

The lump-sum “entrance fee” raises the issue of whether it will undermine the private operator’s profits for the life of the license. All of this lack of clarity comes as the auction for the 3G spectrum is to be held by the NTC Sept. 22-28 and that’s official as it has been published in the Royal Gazette.

Meanwhile, a joint Finance and ICT ministry committee has tasked its legal advisers with studying whether terminating the 2G concessions of the three operators would have an impact on the mobile phone concession amendments that the Supreme Court singled out in its asset-seizure decision against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The move is to prevent the committee from being sued in the future if legal issues are not resolved when 2G concessions are terminated and replaced with licensing.

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