NBTC gives go-ahead to 3G licences

Bid winners ordered to slash fees by 15%

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) finally issued third-generation (3G) licences to the three bid winners yesterday after investigations into the auction lasted almost two months.

Four members of the telecommunications committee voted to approve issuing the licences, while one abstained.

The licences for the 2.1-gigahertz band took effect immediately yesterday, running for 15 years to December 2027.

The telecom watchdog stipulated the three winners must slash charges for voice and data services by at least 15% before they can start providing 3G service.

The three bidders - Advanced Info Service's Advanced Wireless Network, Total Access Communication's DTAC Network and True Corporation's Real Future - each won a maximum quota of 15 megahertz of spectrum.

The NBTC earlier committed itself to granting the licences to the winners within 90 days of the auction results or Jan 18.

Col Settapong Malisuwan, chairman of the NBTC's telecommunications committee, said the commission will submit the licences to the three bidders by mid-December.

Commercial 3G wireless broadband services on the international standard 2.1-GHz frequency are expected to be available in major provinces by April.

Col Settapong said the 15% reduction in 3G service charges will be based on the average market price on Dec 7.

"The discount rate is appropriate based on the fact that mobile airtime prices fall an average of 10% per year," he said, adding that mobile operators must submit their consumer protection and network rollout plans too.

Gen Sukit Karmasundara, another commissioner, said the regulator plans to announce the ceiling price for voice and data services next year.

He said the Ombudsman has another 30 days to appeal against the ruling of the Administrative Court to allow the NBTC to issue the licences.

The court on Monday rejected a petition by the Ombudsman asking it to suspend the issuing of 3G licences, ruling the Ombudsman has no standing to bring a case, as it is not a plaintiff.

Meanwhile, the NBTC's consumer protection subcommittee said it will push for a clear 3G policy that does not allow an expiry date for prepaid services.

It also proposed an interconnection charge of 25 satang for both voice and data services.

The telecom regulator received 2,105 complaints from consumers this year.

Those from mobile phone users accounted for 74%, internet users 15% and fixed-line telephones 6.8%.

Most mobile complaints involved the expiry date on prepaid services, billing errors and poor service.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Suchit Leesa-nguansuk
Position: Senior Reporter