TDRI takes aim at telecom regulator
The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and a consumer watchdog are calling on the telecom regulator to ensure mobile operators comply with third-generation (3G) price regulations.
- Published: 10/05/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
The three major mobile phone networks all rolled out massive new services this week.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) last month approved in principle new 3G standard service contracts for operators. It imposed a regulation requiring the three 3G operators _ subsidiaries of AIS, DTAC and True Move _ to cut tariffs for 3G service packages by 15-20%.
But TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich said yesterday the NBTC has failed to persuade operators to cut prices for all of their 3G packages by 15%.
Mr Somkiat said some operators offered subscribers more bandwidth capacity for data services and other incentives instead of a 15% discount as set out by the new guidelines.
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He said subscribers do not actually want these incentives, and would prefer a price discount.
Some operators argue the incentives will translate to cheaper prices.
Mobile leader AIS and True Move rolled out full commercial 3G services on the 2.1-GHz frequency on Wednesday. Second-ranked Dtac plans to roll out its 3G service next month. Third-generation technology allows faster mobile data transfer at a maximum speed of 42 Mbps, about 300 times faster than the old 2G system. The major benefits of 3G are high-definition voice clarity and high-speed internet data transmission.
Mr Somkiat accused the NBTC of failing to make a serious effort to motivate mobile operators to offer cheaper services. He said when the 3G master plan was drafted, it was proposed that Thailand offer the second-cheapest telecom service prices in Asean.
But the proposal was rejected when the master plan was submitted to the NBTC, which showed the regulator had no intention of encouraging cheaper services, Mr Somkiat said.
He said service fees here remain high, ranking fifth in the region.
The NBTC wanted to please mobile operators while customers receive a raw deal, he said.
Mr Somkiat suggested new mobile operators be allowed to enter the competition to offer 3G services.
"For businesses that are operating without proper competition, there is no other shortcut to benefit consumers other than permitting new operators to join," he said. He also suggested that standard price baskets be set up for internet usage, calls and SMS texting in packages offered by operators.
NBTC commissioner Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn insisted the three operators have complied with NBTC requirements. He said True Move was the first to cut prices on its 3G plans by 15%. He also said no mobile operators would risk being penalised for refusing to cut their tariff rates.
Mobile operators which fail to cut rates would also lose customers to rival companies that comply with the price regulations, Mr Suthiphon said.
He said the NBTC will ensure the operators comply strictly with the requirements.
Mr Suthiphon said the law stipulates that operators need to operate for at least one year before they can cut service charges.
However, there are two options to protect consumers, he said. First, service charges must be slashed by at least 15% from existing rates. Secondly, for any new promotion packages offered after the 3G launch, average prices for both voice and data services must be reduced by at least 15%, he said.
NBTC consumer protection sub-committee chairwoman Saree Ong-somwang stressed the need for the commission to enforce compliance with the requirements.
She said the NBTC should attach more importance to consumers than to the operators which were awarded licences.
It was wrong to allow operators to offer incentives rather than the actual 15% discounts on 3G service packages, she said.
The NBTC must fine or warn operators which fail to comply, Ms Saree said.
An aircraft carries a banner advertising DTAC’s new 3G service to be launched next month. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
About the author
- Writer: Nattaya Chetchotiros
- Position: Reporter