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NEWS UPDATES 13 August 2010

Proposed Thai telecom rule draws heat

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A rule proposed by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) of Thailand to curb "foreign dominance" is being criticized by Thai telecom experts who say that if the rule is implemented, legal challenges may follow.

Challenges to the law with Thailand's Administrative Court or the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The WTO challenges would be under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The GATS prohibits discrimination between foreign and domestic investors forbidding countries to differentiate among their trading partners or between their own and foreign products, services or nationals, to ensure equal competitive opportunities.

Thailand's two largest mobile companies, AIS and DTAC, have major foreign shareholders. Thai telecom experts say the proposed regulation did not support the principle of level opportunity and was not in compliance with Thai law, Thailand's international trade commitments or standard international practice.

One mobile operator in Thailand said the NTC's role was to regulate the telecom industry for consumer benefit and not decide ownership issues.

The proposed rule might have an extremely negative effect on the upcoming 3G auction in September as the NTC had tried to attract more foreign countries to participate in the auction through recent NTC road shows throughout Asia.

The nationalistic bent of the NTC is the latest difficulty Thailand is facing in moving to the 3G spectrum. Other countries, supposedly less advanced, surrounding Thailand such as Laos and Vietnam have already moved to 3G and are looking at 4G.

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