NBTC vows to reduce 3G voice service rate 20%

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has agreed to temporarily control the prices of third-generation (3G) services, but only for voice service initially.

3G operators on the 2.1-GHz spectrum must follow the rule for voice tariff rates before the regulator allocates the spectrum, said Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecom committee.

The NBTC expects to finish the temporary draft for 3G voice service by mid-December.

"The draft will slash the pricing of 3G services for voice by at least 15-20%," said Col Settapong.

He said the three 3G bid winners have to declare their real cost of operations including the licence fee, network rollout plan and interconnection charge to the NBTC by the end of this month.

"A final draft governing 3G for both voice and data services is expected to be completed by mid-2013," he said.

The NBTC recently announced its statement of intent about limiting 3G prices to help calm public concerns that the auction held on Oct 16 for 3G spectrum unfairly rewarded private operators at the expense of consumers and the state.

The 3G information memorandum allows the NBTC to set measures to protect the public interest in line with the Telecom Business Act.

Col Settapong said a 3G tariff cut of 20% would save consumers 73.1 billion baht per year, or 1 trillion baht over the 15-year life of the licences.

The calculation was based on the current pricing of postpaid 3G services on the existing 2G frequency with an average of 899 baht a month.

In another development, Vichai Bencharongkul, the chairman of the Telecommunication Association of Thailand (TCT) under Royal Patronage, met the secretary of the Ombudsman on Monday and gave his full support to its investigation into the 3G auction.

Last week, a group of senators submitted a petition to the Administrative Court through the Office of the Ombudsman seeking a ruling on whether the endorsement of the 3G auction results was legal.

Mr Vichai added the TCT is concerned about a further delay.

"We hope the Ombudsman can make a decision on the auction case by itself, without resorting to the courts because this would take years to settle," said Mr Vichai.

About the author

Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana
Position: Senior Business Reporter