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NEWS UPDATES 3 August 2010

Thai telecom issues face deadline

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Little progress has been made on two important issues impeding the development of the Thai telecom industry due to a lack of clarity from government authorities. The issues are mobile phone concessions and the future of the communication satellites currently in orbit. To expedite decision making a deadline of Aug. 24 has been set to resolve these issues.

The government committee said it must await a decision by the Supreme Court of Political Office Holders, which will decide August 11 to decide on an appeal over the seizure of assets from former Prime Minister and fugitive in exile Thaksin Shinawatra. A decision to uphold the appeal would further delay matters. But if the appeal is denied, the government panel says immediate decisions on the two issues could be reached.

The concession issue over the 2G spectrum has apparently been decided, but the satellite issue is thornier.

Thaicom, said the company is ready to move its Thaicom 2 satellite from the present orbital slot to a new slot to reserve the country's orbital slot right, which will expire at year-end. The government applied for three or four orbital positions with the International Telecommunication Union and must launch satellites into orbit as scheduled or other providers can use the slots.

Thaicom currently has three satellites in orbit: Thaicom 2, scheduled to expire early next year; Thaicom 4, or iPSTAR; and Thaicom 5.Mr Arak said Thaicom was also willing to launch a sixth satellite as a backup satellite for Thaicom 5 by leasing or purchasing a new large broadcasting satellite or two small ones. But further talks on the concession terms must be held first. He added the discussion yesterday was a good start, and said he believed the existing concession disputes between Thaicom and the ICT ministrycould be resolved through negotiations. A panel set up to apply the court ruling o Thaicom's concession had earlier concluded that Thaicom needed to take action to comply with the ruling.

First, it has to launch a new satellite as a replacement for Thaicom 3 and subsequently transfer its ownership to the state.

Second, Shin Corp, the parent firm, also has to raise its stake in Thaicom back to 51 percent from the current 41 percent.

Third, Thaicom should return a US$6.7-million insurance claim to the ICT Ministry, which will give it back to the company.

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