ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai telecom industry in drift mode
A source from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said that the regulator would consult with the Supreme Administrative Court today on what it could do related to spectrums and what it should do next after the court's ruling on Thursday.
The court on Thursday suspended the NTC's 3G-21.GHz licensing regulations and its plan to auction 3G licences following CAT Telecom's legal challenge to the NTC's 3G spectrum licensing authority. The 3G auction had been scheduled for September 20.
The plan to consult the court has raised concerns that this might have a retroactive effect on the NTC's past decisions since 2007 regarding spectrum usage. The NTC had agreed that TOT and CAT Telecom could allow their private concession holders to provide the 3G service on their existing 900MHz and 850MHz spectrums.
Another decision was letting CAT Telecom transfer its share of the joint ownership of the 1900MHz spectrum to TOT, making TOT the sole owner, so that it could provide the 3G service in Greater Bangkok.
Meanwhile, reports suggest that an attempt is being made to push for the Cabinet's reconsideration next week of TOT's proposal to roll out its 3G network nationwide on a budget of 19 billion baht (US$617 million).
CAT had filed a petition with the Central Administrative Court questioning NTC's licensing authority under the current Constitution, which took effect in 2007.
The NTC has also drafted regulations to allot the 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz spectrums for WiMax broadband wireless service.
NTC member Sudharm Yoonaidharma said he believes the NTC could proceed with regulating the industry in areas not related to spectrums but it would suspend the development of any spectrum-licensing regulations.
Some commissioners said the NTC would examine if the ruling would restrict its authority to allow TOT and CAT Telecom to permit Advanced Info Service, Total Access Communication and TrueMove to provide the 3G service on their existing spectrums.
TOT granted AIS' concession, while CAT awarded the concessions of DTAC and TrueMove.
AIS has launched its 3G service on a commercial trial basis using the 900MHz spectrum granted by TOT, while DTAC and TrueMove are offering their services on a non-commercial trial basis using the 850MHz granted to each of them by CAT.
NTC member Natee Sukonrat said the NTC had already cancelled the auction and would return the application fee of 500,000 baht and deposit of 1.28 billion baht to the three bidders.
The NTC will also set up a committee to remedy the damages from voiding the auction. Last week, CAT Telecom asked the Central Administrative Court for an injunction against the 3G auction on grounds that the NTC's 3G licensing regulations are unlawful because its authority under the 1997 constitution ended after the 2006 coup.
The NTC has appealed against the injunction.
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