The three 3G bid winners must slash charges for voice and data services by 15-20% before they can start providing 3G services, the broadcasting and telecom regulator said yesterday.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) announced the "statement of intention" to help calm public concerns that the auction held last week for the 3G spectrum unfairly rewarded private operators at the expense of consumers and the state.
NBTC chairman Thares Punsri said the regulator would put strict measures in place to protect the public interest before the spectrum is allocated.
The broadcast and telecom regulator said savings for consumers resulting from the 20% cut would amount to 73.1 billion a year or more than 1 trillion baht over the 15-year life of the licences.
The NBTC bases its calculation on the current charge for post-paid 3G services of 899 baht a month.
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ACM Thares, joined by the regulator's telecoms committee headed by Settapong Malisuwan, said the bid winners must comply with the new pricing rule on 3G services plus enact measures to ensure service quality and consumer protection plans before they can launch their services.
NBTC secretary-general Thakorn Tantasit said lower operating costs and increased competition resulting from the introduction of 3G would make the service fee cuts possible.
According to the regulator, if the charge is reduced by 15%, the savings for users would amount to 54.8 billion baht a year, or 822.8 billion baht over the 15-year licence period.
Mr Thakorn said the NBTC could grant the 3G licences within 90 days of the auction result being endorsed. The commission will clarify any questions before giving licences to operators, he said.
Acknowledging public concerns that its Oct 16 auction generated lower-than-expected returns and that the bidding structure could lend itself to suspicions of collusion, the watchdog said it would set up a sub-committee to look into the bidders' actions before granting licences.
NBTC commissioner Suthipol Taweechaikarn said the investigation should take no more than 15 days. The results will be submitted to the NBTC's telecom committee.
Last Tuesday, the NBTC auctioned off nine 15-year licences for 41.6 billion baht, only 1.125 billion baht or 2.78% above the reserve price.
The auction winners were the big three telecoms players: AIS, which has more than 34.8 million subscribers, Dtac, which has over 23.9 million, and TrueMove, which has about 17 million.
AIS's subsidiary Digital Phone Co (DPC) has about 80,000 subscribers.
Meanwhile, the Central Administrative Court rejected the last remaining petition against the auction yesterday.
The petition was filed by Green Politics group leader Suriyasai Katasila and five associates.
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Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana & Mongkol Bangprapa