The three third-generation (3G) bid winners officially picked up their long-awaited licences Tuesday and vowed to kick off full commercial high-speed broadband service in Bangkok and some major provinces early next year.
The 3G service will be run on the international-standard 2.1-gigahertz band.
The licences, issued by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), are good for 15 years until December 2027.
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 three mobile operators also asked the telecom watchdog to halve interconnection charges for voice and data to 50 satang a minute if it wants them to slash charges for voice and data services by at least 15% before providing 3G service.
Interconnection charges are the fees that operators charge each other for handling calls across various networks.
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NBTC chairman ACM Thares Punsri said the regulator expects to introduce a temporary 3G interconnection charge for both voice and data service by April.
He said having 3G under a new licensing regime opens a new chapter in the Thai telecommunications industry, ending the old-fashioned concession system.
ACM Thares also claims the NBTC will push ahead with plans for a 4G auction next year.
Secretary-general Thakorn Tantasit stressed that licence holders must expand their network coverage to half of Thailand's population within two years and 80% within four years.
The NBTC will today hand over the first batch of 22.3 billion baht in revenue from the 3G auction to state coffers plus another 55 million in interest, said Mr Thakorn.
The operators must pay another 25% of the winning bid prices to the NBTC in 2014 and the remaining 25% in 2015.
ACM Thares said the NBTC plans to allocate an additional 20 million mobile numbers starting with 091 to the three operators in next year's first quarter.
"We now have as much as 130 million mobile numbers, enough for 3G service," he said, adding that the mobile industry uses about 70 million numbers.
Commissioner Prawit Leesathapornwongsa insisted that mobile operators must no longer set an expiration date for prepaid mobile service or face a fine of 100,000 baht a day.
The new regulation governing validity of mobile refill cards are in compliance with the Central Administrative Court's ruling last month, he said.
Earlier, True Move filed a petition with the court to appeal the NBTC's finding, but the court dismissed the petition.
The Telecom Service Regulation Act of 2006 prohibits prepaid refill cards from expiring, and AIS, DTAC, True Move, TOT and CAT Telecom will be forced to comply strictly with the new rule.
Refill card validity has varied from 30 days to one year.
Subscribers not using up all the call value within the allotted period have had to top up their cards if they wanted to continue using the service regardless of the leftover call value.
About the author
- Writer: Suchit Leesa-nguansuk
Position: Senior Reporter